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Alaphilippe: I'm not thinking about revenge at the Tour of Flanders

Danish Kasper Asgreen of Deceuninck QuickStep French Julian Alaphilippe of Deceuninck QuickStep and French Florian Senechal of Deceuninck QuickStep pictured during a training session on the track of the Ronde van Vlaanderen cycling race Friday 02 April 2021 The 105th edition of the cycling race will take place on Easter Sunday 04 AprilBELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM Photo by DIRK WAEMBELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images
Alaphilippe with teammates Kasper Asgreen and Florian Sénéchal during Deceuninck-QuickStep's Flanders recon on Friday (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Julian Alaphilippe has said he's not looking for revenge at Sunday's Tour of Flanders, six months after he crashed out of the winning attack 35 kilometres from the finish of the 2020 edition.

Speaking at Deceuninck-QuickStep's pre-Flanders press conference on Friday afternoon, the Frenchman said that he has already put what happened soon after the Taaienberg – where he, Jumbo-Visma's Wout van Aert and eventual winner, Alpecin-Fenix's Mathieu van der Poel, broke away at the front of the race – behind him.

"I really don't have the revenge feeling. For me, it's behind me now. We're in 2021 and it's a new edition," Alaphilippe said during the virtual press conference. "The condition is different; the race will be different. I forgot what happened.

"For sure, what happened last year was a bad moment for me and the team because after that we were on a bad situation. It's not a revenge for me and no, I don't think about what I could've done if I didn't crash. That's life. It happened to me and I accept it. I did everything to recover, and now I'm focussed on Sunday."

Alaphilippe will once again be among the top favourites at Sunday's race, along with the two men who went on to sprint for victory last year. Van Aert has perhaps edged ahead as favourite, however, having won Gent-Wevelgem while the world champion finished 22nd at Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday, his first race since Milan-San Remo. Van der Poel, meanwhile, has said he might be past his best this spring after finishing 58th at Dwars.

Still, though, Deceuninck-QuickStep bring the strongest team to the race, with Yves Lampaert, Kasper Asgreen, Florian Sénéchal all capable of leading, with team boss Patrick Lefevere adding that sprinter Davide Ballerini can act as a "joker" for them. But despite the tremendous strength in depth at the Belgian squad – who will be rebranded as Elegant-QuickStep on Sunday – Alaphilippe said that they won't be relied upon to work all day.

"For sure [each of the other favourites] has to control the race with their teams," he said. "We are not the only ones to control the whole race. We are part of the favourites but there are also so many riders who can win. Everybody has to take responsibility. We are focussed on what we have to do and that's the most important.

"I feel good," he added. "Like I already said, I was a bit tired after the races in Italy, and I wasn’t super in the last days, but I was reassured after Dwars door Vlaanderen even if I wasn’t extraordinary there. I felt better, and I’m feeling better in the last few days now that we’re feeling the adrenaline of the race on Sunday."

While some teams only have Flanders or October's Paris-Roubaix with which to salvage their campaigns, Deceuninck-QuickStep can already boast three big wins. At Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the Classic Brugge-De Panne, Davide Ballerini and Sam Bennett sprinted to victory, respectively, while Kasper Asgreen won the E3 Saxo Bank Classic, having been off the front for 50 kilometres before working with two teammates in a seven-man group and jumping away again in the final.

The team can win in a variety of ways, then, and Alaphilippe might have done the same last Flanders, but for the race motorbike he hit. So, would he prefer to head into the final slew of difficulties among a small group of favourites once again? Or is a scenario as seen in E3 be preferable?

"For me there is not an ideal scenario," he said. "The best scenario is that we win the race. We have a strong team, so we have to play smart and be intelligent, and also be strong because it's a really hard race. I will do my best to be in a good position for the team, to help or to do something, but in the end there's no ideal scenario."

Once again, Alaphilippe will head into Flanders with the rainbow jersey on his back, becoming only the second man in history to line up at the race wearing the jersey for two years in a row. Bora-Hansgrohe's Peter Sagan was the last man to do so, in 2016 following Rik Van Looy, Louison Bobet, Eddy Merckx and Tom Boonen into the history books as the only men to win in Flanders in the rainbow bands.

Alaphilippe hopes to emulate them, adding to his haul of Brabantse Pijl and stage 2 of Tirreno-Adriatico since winning the Worlds in Imola, and wants to keep on winning through the Ardennes, too.

"I’m wearing the rainbow jersey for the second time at the Tour of Flanders. It’s a special emotion, a pleasure – an honour, even. I’m proud to wear the jersey and show it on Sunday. Unlike my teammates who don’t have Paris-Roubaix, I’ll be racing à bloc until Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and I hope I can do more to show the jersey and win. That’s the objective."