Alaphilippe surprises himself with Tour of Britain victory

Julian Alaphilippe had looked like a probable winner from early on in the Tour of Britain due to his obvious climbing prowess, but after finishing the job with 13th place in the London circuit race, the Frenchman said he had been pleasantly surprised to land the second professional stage race victory of his career, the first since the Tour of California in 2016.

“I was not expecting to win the overall in a stage race in the first event I participated in after the break following the Tour and San Sebastian,” said the Quick-Step Floors rider. “I have surprised myself with my shape. I did the criteriums after the Tour, then San Sebastian, then had a week on holiday and started training again before coming here.”

“It was really fast today,” said Alaphilippe after the London circuit race. “We always tried to stay in the front to control the race, and to help Fernando Gaviria take the stage. In the end he was second, so that’s probably a bit disappointing, but we have achieved the main goal. It wasn’t so easy today. The course was beautiful, but it was fast, and a bit dangerous so I had to keep focussed until the final moments.”

Victory in the Tour of Britain took Alaphilippe’s total of wins for the season to 10, which is more than respectable for a rider who is not a pure sprinter; those include two mountain stages at the Tour de France and the King of the Mountains jersey, plus San Sebastian and the Flèche Wallonne, and a brace of stages at the Tour of the Basque Country.

That completed a dominant week for the Quick-Step team, who controlled much of the race with Iljo Keisse, Bob Jungels, Max Richeze and Maximilian Schachmann, with Gaviria also showing willingness to step outside the sprinter’s brief to go on the attack, and to drive the peloton at times when required. Their strength enabled Alaphilippe to fight off the challenge of Wout Poels (Team Sky) and Primoz Roglic, who had looked well set after his LottoNL-Jumbo team won Thursday’s team time trial.

Jungels and Alaphilippe complemented each other perfectly on the hillier stages, going on the attack together as early as stage one, when they escaped not far from the finish in Newport. The Luxembourg national champion and Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner, who finished fifth overall, also led out Alaphilippe for his stage victory in Bristol and set him up for his assault on the race leader’s jersey in the summit finish at Whinlatter Pass on Friday.

“I am really happy. I’m proud to have a new line on my palmares,” said Alaphilippe. “I was fresh, and I had a good team around me, and voilà. Now I will ride the Tour of Slovakia which starts on Wednesday, then I have a bit of a rest and prepare for the World Championships, and I will finish my season at the Tour of Lombardy.”

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