Julian Alaphilippe has always pushed back against pressure and expectation to target overall victory at the Tour de France but he has suggested to La Gazzetta dello Sport that he will, one day, target the yellow jersey and also ride the Giro d’Italia.
The double world champion has enjoyed a quiet winter break, presenting his autobiography in France but spending time at home in Andorra with his partner Marion Rousse and their baby boy Nino.
"Becoming a father is the most beautiful thing in life that has happened to me," Alaphilippe told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"Nino is five months old and growing quickly. He’s an example of pure happiness. You only realise what it all means when it happens. It changes your life."
Alaphilippe always seems to live and race on emotion, trying to please the crowd with spectacular attacks. Winning his first world title in 2020 in Imola elevated him to the top of the sport, his second rainbow jersey was confirmation, while becoming a father brought a counterbalance.
"Compared to last winter and after winning in Imola, I feel a lot more confident and relaxed," he explained.
"Last year I needed a lot of time to understand what I’d done and take it all on board. I then hurt my hand at the Tour of Flanders and was still in pain when I started training. Now I know how to manage things, without putting extra pressure or stress on myself."
Alaphilippe tried to target the biggest spring Classics, from Milan-San Remo through to Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He won La Flèche Wallonne and was second in Liège, only beaten by Tadej Pogačar, but was not at his best before that.
He has opted to focus just on the Ardennes Classics in 2022. He will return to the Tour de France to hunt stages and perhaps a few days in the yellow jersey.
Alaphilippe sparked home hopes of a first overall Tour de France win since 1985 when he held the yellow jersey for two weeks during the 2019 Tour, ultimately finishing fifth overall. He has yet to make a concerted tilt at the overall title but that could come in the years to come, perhaps after testing his Grand Tour credentials at the Giro d'Italia.
"In 2022 I’ll focus on the Classics and the Tour but I want to discover the Giro as soon as possible," Alaphilippe said, perhaps appeasing La Gazzetta dello Sport, whose owners organise the Corsa Rosa.
"Never say never," he said when asked if one day he will try to win the Tour.
"Why not think about it before the end of my career? There are a lot of questions to be asked and I’d need to speak to the team. But I don’t want to end my time with the regret of not ever trying."
A French rider has not won the Tour de France since Bernard Hinault back in 1985 but Alaphilippe appears to have matured without the weight of expectation on his career.
"I’ve never raced a Grand Tour thinking of winning it, so there wasn’t the same pressure. But I can understand why it’s been difficult for [Thibaut] Pinot and [Romain] Bardet," he said.
"When I was a kid I rode with my friends just for fun, even dreaming about riding the Tour de France seemed impossible. I never imagined I’d even turn professional, not even when I was a Junior."
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