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Julian Alaphilippe's comeback cut short by COVID-19

LIEGE BELGIUM APRIL 24 Julian Alaphilippe of France and Team QuickStep Alpha Vinyl prior to the 108th Liege Bastogne Liege 2022 Mens Elite a 2572km one day race from Lige to Lige LBL WorldTour on April 24 2022 in Liege Belgium Photo by Bas CzerwinskiGetty Images
Julian Alaphilippe's season has been halted just after it got going again (Image credit: Getty images)

Julian Alaphilippe's comeback from a long injury lay-off has been stopped in its tracks by COVID-19. 

After returning to competition at the weekend at the Tour de Wallonnie, three months after his heavy crash in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the world champion tested positive for the virus on Monday morning. 

He will therefore not start stage 3 of the five-stage Belgian race, and it is now highly unlikely he'll take part in Sunday's Clásica de San Sebastián.

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Alaphilippe broke his scapula, two ribs and suffered a punctured lung in his horror crash at Liège. He was off the bike for nearly a month and, despite trying to get fit for the Tour de France, he missed out on selection for QuickStep-AlphaVinyl's squad.

Alaphilippe had raced the French national championships at the end of June in a bid to prove himself for the Tour but once that was taken off the table he held back and built a plan for the second half of the year.

He returned at the Tour de Wallonie on Saturday and duly got back to winning ways, triumphing on the opening stage on the Mur de Huy, scene of his four victories at La Flèche Wallonne. On stage 2 he finished in the first main pack, nearly nine minutes down on the winner, and handed over the leader's jersey to Rob Stannard (Alpecin-Deceuninck).

Alaphilippe exited the race on Monday morning and will likely have to miss the prestigious one-day Classic in San Sebastián, which he won in 2018. Assuming the rest of his programme is undisrupted, he would race the Tour de l'Ain, which starts on August 9, ahead of the Vuelta a España, which gets underway 10 days later.

Alaphilippe will then head to Australia for the World Championships, where he'll be out to win the road race rainbow jersey for a third year in a row, before bringing his season to an end at Il Lombardia in October.

“The main objective this week is to enjoy it and get into race rhythm," Alaphilippe said ahead of the Tour de Wallonie. 

"Obviously, I’d like to attack and get results, because they’re races that suit me. But first, I have to see where I’m at. It will be good to chase results but also to build condition.

"This is a different programme for me compared to other years, and I’ll try to keep some freshness for the end of the season, because I want to finish it better than I started it. I’ve been training at altitude. I didn’t do crazy training to be ready immediately, but I’m still curious to see how I do in Wallonie before San Sebastian. With the Tour de l’Ain, that’s a good block before the Vuelta.

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