After botching Liège-Bastogne-LIège with a premature celebration and relegation, the new world champion bounced back on Wednesday at De Brabantse Pijl – a race that acts as something of a crossover between the Ardennes and Flemish Classics.
That was even more the case this year, with the introduction of the Moskesstraat climb, 550 metres long, with an average gradient of 8.9 per cent, pitches of 17 per cent, and rough cobblestones. That's where, teed up by Zdenek Štybar, Alaphilippe launched a big attack to open up the finale, raising expectations ahead of his Flanders debut a week on Sunday.
After dispatching Mathieu van der Poel and Benoît Cosnefroy in the sprint, however, Alaphilippe was keen to play down his chances.
"I have achieved my goals for the season - more than, even. I have now also brushed away the disappointment of Liège a bit," he said, according to Belgian newspapers Het Nieuwsblad and Het Laatste Nieuws.
"It is the first time that I'll race the Ronde. It's hard enough for the riders who've ridden it five or six times. I've only come to have a look. It is impossible for me to tell you whether I have the physical qualities to shine in the final of the Ronde. Just because you can have some fun on a few cobblestones does not mean you can win."
Alaphilippe also pointed out the strength in depth of his Deceuninck-QuickStep team, who are far and away the most successful team in the cobbled Classics and always line up at Flanders with a wealth of cards to play.
As well as Štybar, Alaphilippe will line up alongside Yves Lampaert, Kasper Asgreen, and Bob Jungels, who've all won major cobbled races.
"I will of course have an important role in the team for De Ronde," Alaphilippe said. "But I will not be referred to as the rider who has to win."
According to Nieuwsblad, Alaphilippe will not return to his base in Andorra nor his home region of central France, but will stay at his partner's home in northern France. That will allow him to combine some training with some reconnaissance of the cobbled climbs and narrow roads over the Belgian border.
"I'm going to recover a bit first. Then I will explore the course twice. I'm curious, but there won't be any stress or pressure for De Ronde either," he said.
"Please don't make me a favorite. I want to race well, help my team and give it the maximum."
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