Skip to main content

Julian Alaphilippe confident he can 'influence the race' at Wollongong Worlds

2021 UCI World Championships Flanders Men Elite Road Race Antwerp Leuven 2683 km 26092021 Julian Alaphilippe France photo POOL Kristoff RamonBettiniPhoto2021
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Julian Alaphilippe usually lines up among the top tier of favourites for the World Championships, but the defending champion finds himself as something of an outsider for Sunday’s elite men’s road race in Wollongong. He has admitted he is not 100% but wants to be in the action.

After an ill-starred 2022 season, beset by illness and serious injury at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Alaphilippe looked to be building steadily towards the Worlds at the Vuelta a España only to be forced out of the race by a crash on stage 11.

Alaphilippe, who dislocated a shoulder in the incident, hasn’t raced since, though he quickly made clear that he still intended to travel to Australia in search of a third successive rainbow jersey

Speaking in Wollongong on Wednesday, Alaphilippe acknowledged that he didn’t enter the race with the same form as when he won in Imola in 2020 or in Leuven last year.

“I would have liked to have arrived in other circumstances, but I think nobody can doubt my state of mind. I'm not 100%, but I'm here to hurt myself and to give my best,” Alaphilippe said, according to L’Equipe (opens in new tab).

“I’m not going to be lousy on Sunday but I don't have the same guarantees. Still, I consider myself capable of influencing the race and helping the guys if necessary. Perhaps we’re less of a favourite than in other years. I'm one of the leaders, rather than the only leader, and that's fine with me. I'm next to some riders who are in good shape, so we'll play on the collective.”

One of the on-form men in Thomas Voeckler’s selection is Grand Prix de Québec winner Benoît Cosnefroy, who was a late call-up to the team after he had previously ruled himself out of the Worlds.

On Wednesday, Voeckler confirmed that Cosnefroy has been included in his nine-man selection for the elite men’s road race, with Remi Cavagna – who raced in the individual time trial and mixed relay – making way for the AG2R Citroën man.

The French squad also includes Romain Bardet, Pavel Sivakov, Christophe Laporte and Valentin Madouas, but Alaphilippe, despite his blighted preparation and doubts, is the obvious fulcrum.

The QuickStep-AlphaVinyl rider missed the Tour de France after sustaining two broken ribs, a broken scapula, and a punctured lung in an horrific crash at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He returned to winning ways atop the Mur de Huy at the Tour de Wallonie in late July, only for his season to be interrupted once again by a COVID-19 diagnosis.

After riding strongly in support of eventual winner Remco Evenepoel in the opening half of the Vuelta, Alaphilippe endured further misfortune on the road to Cabo de Gata on stage 11.

“This season, there have been lots of times where I felt like putting the bike in the garage and moving on to 2023, but I’m happy to be here with the guys. I’m ready to fight so that we can keep the world champion’s jersey in the team,” said Alaphilippe.

“I have a lot of motivation and I’m quite relaxed. I haven’t coming here in the best conditions, that’s sure. I injured myself on the Vuelta, once again this season and once too many. It was a hard blow, leaving the Vuelta, because my form was getting better and better. But I came out of it pretty well with a dislocated shoulder, so in the end, I only spent a few days off the bike.”

Given the circumstances of his season to date, Alaphilippe insisted that he would line up on Sunday without pressure – an echo, he added, of his feelings before the start of last year’s race in Leuven.

“The only time I felt a bit [of pressure] was perhaps in Imola two years ago,” he said. 

“Last year, I didn’t have any. I wanted to give my all, but above all, I was prepared to lose, which explains my way of riding in the finale. I think the head is going to make the difference more than the legs, but I don’t have any pressure.”

Thank you for reading 5 articles in the past 30 days*

Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read any 5 articles for free in each 30-day period, this automatically resets

After your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59

Join now for unlimited access

Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Head of Features

Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.