Julian Alaphilippe rolled the dice and went on the attack for a second consecutive stage at the Tour de France but yet again the World Champion lacked the power and speed to go with the final attacks and finished another stage empty handed.
The French rider won the opening stage to Landerneau and wore the first yellow jersey of the 2021 Tour de France, yet he, Deceuninck-QuickStep, and the French fans wanted so much more.
He lost the yellow jersey to Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) on stage 2 to Mûr-de-Bretagne and then slipped to fourth after the Laval time trial, while L’Equipe and other French media had predicted he would be back in yellow.
Ever the attacker, Alaphilippe tried his hand again on the second mountain stage to Tignes but was dropped from the breakaway on the Col du Pré mid-stage. On other stages Alaphilippe has become a generous bridesmaid, helping lead out Mark Cavendish in the sprints and then sharing in his three victories.
Alaphilippe made sure he was in Thursday’s early attack, sensing the break would go and perhaps knowing that Deceuninck-QuickStep were not going to ride to set up Cavendish for a possible 34th stage win.
Everything went right out on the road to Nîmes until the four-rider attack got a gap and nine chasers, including Alaphilippe, never saw them again.
“I’m not sure if there was anything else I could have done,” Alaphilippe told Eurosport post-stage, as Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) took the accolades on the podium.
“We suspected the break was going to go to the finish and so I knew I had to be in there. I was trying to go with the big group and needed to be up front to do that. I didn’t get that wrong.
“However, there were a lot of very fast riders up there and so I knew it was going to be tactical and hard.”
Alaphilippe eventually finished ninth, coming in the chase group at 2:08, without even trying to sprint for fifth place. He climbed 10 places in the overall classification with the peloton finishing 16 minutes down on Politt, but stage victories remain Alaphilippe’s goal.
“I’m still strong. I need to recover a little now but I should be fine,” he said.
Alaphilippe had described his attack on the Mont Ventoux stage as a bit of fun, shrugging off any expectation that he may also be targeting the polka-dot mountains jersey.
“I hadn't planned on showing myself, but then I wanted to attack, so I did so right away. I did my best throughout the stage, and I had fun but it was one lap of Ventoux too many for me,” he said.
“I was delighted to have led over Mont Ventoux in the World Champion's jersey, it’s a special, legendary climb and going over it first gave me an incredible feeling.”
Alaphilippe scored 10 points for reaching the summit first, giving him a total of 20 points in the mountains classification. Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) leads the race-long competition with 50 points.
“I'm not necessarily aiming for the polka dot jersey, I'm already wearing a nice jersey but we’ll see what happens later in the race,” Alaphilippe said, ever proud to wear the World Champion’s rainbow jersey.
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