Julian Alaphilippe was one of the first riders to embrace stage winner Mark Cavendish on the line after his Deceuninck-QuickStep teammate swooped to a sensational victory on stage 4 of the Tour de France.
Cavendish capped a thrilling and tense finale by edging out Nacer Bouhanni (Team Arkea-Samsic) and Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) in Fougères to take his first stage win in the race since 2016 and his first in QuickStep colours since 2015 – when he won in the same exact town.
The win, and the points Cavendish picked up at the intermediate finish, were also enough to catapult him into the green jersey at the expense of Alaphilippe, but at the finish, and after Alaphilippe had been instrumental in helping to set up Cavendish for his 31st stage win, there was only joy for the two riders.
“He’s just amazing,” a jubilant Alaphilippe told the gathering media.
“I’m so happy for him, so happy for the team. We really believed in him for today’s stage. We knew the final. This is such an emotional victory for him but also for everyone.”
Cavendish’s future in the sport looked far from certain last autumn when a tearful sprinter went in front of the cameras during the rescheduled spring Classics to admit that he had no team for the following season. However, he worked on a deal with Patrick Lefevere and signed a one-year contract.
At the Tour of Turkey, Cavendish won four times and he backed that up with a stage win in the Tour of Belgium earlier this month. His Tour spot came courtesy of an injury to Sam Bennett, but it wasn’t luck that saw him win on stage 4. Alaphilippe backed up that sentiment by explaining the hard work and dedication that his teammate had displayed since joining the squad at the start of the year.
“He was so motivated. Like a neo-pro” the world champion said. “He showed his grinta and his team spirit. He’s still one of the best sprinters in the world and he showed it again today.”
Alaphilippe was also asked about the role played by lead-out man Michael Mørkøv. The Dane has been described as the best lead-out man in the world by countless riders, and not just those on his team. Once again he was there to assist Cavendish through a tricky finale before the Manxman opened up his sprint for the finish line.
“Michael for me is the best lead-out rider in the world,” Alaphilippe said.
“I don’t say that because we’re on the same team but you can see if every sprint that he’s doing he always perfect, calm, relaxed. He does his effort at a good moment and I think today for Mark, Michael was really important.”
Cavendish now leads the Green jersey competition with 89 points, with Alaphilippe at 82, and Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) on 78.
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