Julian Alaphilippe (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) stormed back to action in a big way with a win on stage 1 of the Tour de Wallonie. He surged up Mur de Huy to take the victory ahead of Alex Aranburu (Movistar) with Robert Stannard (Alpecin-Deceuninck) trailing in third.
It was the first stage race for Alaphilippe since April when he suffered injuries from a crash at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The Frenchman rode the French national championships, finishing 13th in the road race, but was not fit enough to take his place in QuickStep-AlphaVinyl’s team for the Tour de France.
Five riders jumped early in the 174.4km stage to form a break - Lennert Teugels (Tarteletto-Isorex), Johan Jacobs (Movistar), Casper Pedersen (Team DSM), Fabian Lienhard (Groupama-FDJ) and Maxime Chevalier (B&V Hotels - KTM).
The lead went out to three minutes, and as they entered the first of two local laps for the finish the escape began to fade, with the final twosome of Jacobs and Pedersen caught with 11km to go.
In the final 3km Lotto Soudal and Bora-Hansgrohe took to the front on the flat stretch of road in Huy. The final 700 metres on Mur de Huy kicked up with a pitch of 15% near the line and Alaphilippe used the last 200 metres as his launching pad.
“We controlled the race from the beginning with Iljo [Keisse], then the others stepped in in the final part of the stage and they too did a great job, and that’s why I want to thank them all,” Alaphilippe said.
“I’m delighted that I had the legs to finish the day in the most beautiful way possible. The Mur de Huy is always a difficult finish and it’s never easy to win here, you feel the pain with every meter. I am just happy to have tasted victory again after a long time.
“I was very excited this morning at the thought of being back with the guys in a competition again after our training camp in Livigno, I had a lot of motivation knowing I would finally resume racing and was very confident, because I had a strong team around me, and together we prepared a solid plan for today.”
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