French star Julian Alaphilippe was the strongman of the first two days of the Tour of Britain, forcing the pace up the final short climb on stage 1 to escape with his Quick-Step Floors teammate Bob Jungels, and then staging a phenomenal effort to close a 30-second gap on Hugh Carthy on the closing ascent of stage 2, the tough climb up Challacombe.
Both Alaphilippe and Jungels figured in the eight-rider chase group that formed in the final kilometres, and which looked set to fight out the overall standings through the Bristol stage and on into the Lake District at the end of the week.
"Yesterday [Sunday] we controlled the race all day, and today we gave some help to Lotto after the feed because we never know what’s going to happen in the final," Alaphilippe said. "I tried my chance on the last climb and finally it was a good move because behind I had Bob with some of the guys for GC. We did a hard effort, him also, I tried for the sprint and it didn't work, but we still have two guys in the front for GC and we should be good tomorrow."
Alaphilippe would not be drawn on whether he felt like a potential overall winner of the British tour, having just returned from a break after winning the San Sebastian Classic in the wake of his stellar Tour de France. "Honestly, it's my first race after a little break that I really deserved because I was pretty tired after the Tour, San Sebastian and all the criteriums.
"I only started training a few days ago. This is my first race so I feel fresh and I'm happy to discover a race that is new to me, which I've never done before. I'm happy, I've come here to put in some work, to have a good time and try to win a stage - why not? The overall is something that will come afterwards if I feel good."
The Frenchman and Jungels look to be at about the same level of form, and a decision will be made later in the week as to whether Alaphilippe will have the chance to take his first stage race title since the Tour of California in 2016.
"We took our holidays at the same time," laughed Alaphilippe. "We're pretty much the same fitness-wise but we are two very different riders. He's shown how good a rouleur he is in the final here today, and yesterday [at Newport] where he nearly won the stage. It will be interesting to see how we are placed after tomorrow and we will make a decision after the team time trial.
"I like the roads here. I'm riding them for the first time, I'm glad to be here with a profile like this: up and down, small roads, the kind of technical stuff that wears you down. I like it. It's good to get back in the rhythm. I'm hoping to get some form for the World's - that's all part of the plan. I've had a look at the course for that, but not in any detail yet. It will be a surprise."
It will be no surprise to find Alaphilippe in the race leader's jersey at the end of the week, or even in the rainbow stripes in a few weeks time.
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