By finishing safely within the bunch on stage 3 of the Tour de France in Sisteron on Monday, current race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) has matched 1975 and 1977 Tour champion Bernard Thévenet in the all-time list of French wearers of the yellow jersey.
Alaphilippe will then match 1967 Tour winner Roger Pingeon and sprinter André Darrigade, who won 22 Tour stages in the 1950s and '60s, if he can hold on to the race lead until the conclusion of stage 4 on Tuesday, with its summit finish at Orcières-Merlette.
In addition to the almost two weeks he spent in yellow at last year's race, Alaphilippe has now spent 16 days as the leader of the race in total. He still has some way to go to match the rider who tops the all-time list by having spent 76 days of his career in the yellow jersey: five-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault. Fellow five-time winner Jacques Anquetil trails some way behind, with 51 days, while Alaphilippe is currently joint 10th on the list, and will jump to joint ninth alongside Pingeon and Darrigade if he can keep the lead on Tuesday.
The statistics, published in L'Equipe on Monday, were taken from the book L'Encyclopédie du Maillot Jaune, which was compiled by L'Equipe's cycling journalists and contains a wealth of facts and figures about cycling's most iconic jersey. The number of days in yellow are in fact judged upon how many times each rider has been presented with the yellow jersey following a stage.
How far can Alaphilippe go? There's then a bit of a jump to the recently retired Thomas Voeckler – who's now the French national-team selector – and his 20 days in yellow in eighth place. To match him, Alaphilippe would need to hold the lead until Friday evening in Lavaur – or indeed take it back again later in the race if he loses it in the coming days.
Going beyond Voeckler and chasing the late two-time Tour winner Laurent Fignon's 22 days in yellow would truly put Alaphilippe in among the French legends of yesteryear. For now, the 28-year-old has said that he's just chasing stage victories, rather than a high overall finish, at the Tour – despite his fifth place overall last year. However, he hasn't ruled out one day trying to target the podium – and possibly even the top step.
For now, during a race that could, but hopefully won't, grind to a halt at any moment due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, Alaphilippe simply has the French public – and perhaps him, too – dreaming of more days to come of him dressed in yellow.
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