Julian Alaphilippe: I want to enjoy myself on the bike at the Vuelta a España

LLEX FRANCE AUGUST 11 Julian Alaphilippe of France and Team QuickStep Alpha Vinyl crosses the finish line during the 34th Tour de lAin 2022 Stage 3 a 131km stage from Plateau dHauteville to Llex 904m TDA22 on August 11 2022 in Llex France Photo by Bas CzerwinskiGetty Images
World champion Alaphilippe lines up at the Vuelta hoping to put a hard year behind him (Image credit: Bas CzerwinskiGetty Images)

Heading towards the end of a challenging season in the rainbow jersey, Julian Alaphilippe has said that he hopes he can enjoy himself on the bike again at the upcoming Vuelta a España.

The Frenchman forms part of a QuickStep-AlphaVinyl squad set up to support Remco Evenepoel's GC challenge and he's set to play his part in that. But the Vuelta is also his first WorldTour race since his horror crash at Liège-Bastogne-Liège in the spring.

Alaphilippe suffered fractures to his shoulder blade and ribs as well as a punctured lung in the mass crash and was two months in recovery before racing again. He missed Tour de France selection and then took another setback after testing positive for COVID-19 at the Tour de Wallonie, where he had won the opening stage.

Since then, Alaphilippe has got the Tour de l'Ain under his belt as Vuelta preparation and the two-time world champion is heading into the final part of the season motivated after the setbacks that have so far defined his 2022 campaign.

"You have to be confident. It can't be worse than the last few months for me," Alaphilippe said in a pre-race press conference ahead of the Vuelta's start in Utrecht on Friday.

"I'm approaching the end of the season with a lot of desire and motivation. For it to be successful I would live to achieve a good performance, avoid falls, and stay in good health. In short I want to enjoy myself on the bike."

Alaphilippe, who a few years ago was touted as a Grand Tour contender himself after racing to an unexpected fifth place at the 2019 Tour de France, will firmly be supporting Belgian prodigy Evenepoel in Spain.

Along with Fausto Masnada, Rémi Cavagna, and Ilan Van Wilder, Alaphilippe will form the key core of support among the QuickStep squad over the next three weeks. However, the Frenchman will be able to seek opportunities for himself.

After all, the parcours presents several stages which look well-suited to the man who triumphed on the steep slopes of Xorret de Catí on his only previous Vuelta participation five years ago.

"After that, if I can get a nice victory I can be happy," Alaphilippe continued. "I know that I am a professional. I still have the determination to shine and that starts in this Vuelta. I'm ready and it will only get better."

Alaphilippe said that he never let his head drop during what has been a tough year for him, adding that he hasn't been put off by outside expectations of the world champion returning back to winning ways immediately.

"People have a lot of expectations of me and they expect me to win right away and everywhere," he said. "It's not always easy to manage.

"When you are world champion and not at 100% and you're taking a beating in some races that are a bit less demanding then it's always easy to criticise. But I was clearly there to make an effort.

"There are always a lot of expectations and I'm used to that. I continue to train hard and I hope that luck will be on my side in this Vuelta."

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