Julian Alaphilippe was overjoyed to take his first victory of the 2021 season at Tirreno-Adriatico and beat big-name rivals Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert and Tadej Pogačar on the uphill finish in Chiusdino in deepest Tuscany.
The Frenchman timed his final effort to the line perfectly, coming off Geraint Thomas’ wheel in the final hundred metres to surge past his fading teammate João Almeida. His rivals were behind him and didn’t have the speed to pass him. Van der Poel came up late but started his effort too far back to be able to snatch victory.
Alaphilippe celebrated with his tongue out as Van der Poel vented his anger.
“This victory makes me very happy. It’s not easy to win wearing the rainbow jersey. The team believed in me today and we did a great job,” Alaphilppe said.
“It’s a special feeling to win with the rainbow jersey in Italy, the country where I conquered it.
“I’ve realized that it’s more difficult to win races with this jersey, it makes today’s victory even sweeter.”
While it may have seemed that Alaphilippe chased down Almeida, he in fact waited until the final metres, when he understood that Almeida was unable to survive to the finish, before accelerating to victory, all while also keeping an eye on his rivals.
For the Frenchman, it was all part of the plan, with him as team leader to finish it off. It was a perfect execution and superb team work by Deceuninck-QuickStep. Almeida went close to victory and his attack forced the other teams to chase while Alaphilippe could watch and wait.
“It was a perfect situation for us with João Almeida who followed the attack in the last kilometres,” Alaphilippe explained.
“I kept my position in the front with the help of Kasper Asgreen and Zdenek Stybar. We knew that João was going full gas, so I focused on what was happening behind me.
“When Geraint Thomas made his move, I understood my time had come to make my move too, even though there was a head wind. Everyone was on the limit and so when I saw João, I went full gas.”
“It’s been a finale full of suspense. It was very intense. During the race, the rhythm was always very high. We did a beautiful job today. We were motivated and it was a good finale for me.”
Alaphilippe put on a show but there were few fans at the finish in Chiusdino and along the 202km stage. Parts of Tuscany are in lockdown due to a high number COVID-19 cases and most people are careful about gathering at the finish.
For a performer like Alaphilippe, who loves to attack with panache, the lack of roadside fans is a disappointment. However, he feels fortunate to race as many parts of the world fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I know the fans are missing being at the races and seeing what we do but we also miss the fans,” Alaphillippe explained post-stage.
“It’s not the same thing to climb, go through villages or ride flat out in the finale of a race without any spectators. We hope we can go back to normal rapidly. We’re happy to be able to race in these difficult circumstances and I thank the organisers for that.”
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