“We did not stick to the plan, but it worked” … How Julian Alaphilippe became world champion again

We were going to sell you the wrapped story as your best Christmas present. The genius of Thomas Voeckler and the collective masterclass of the Blues, perfect little pawns of the Tupamaros guerrilla strategy demanded by the French coach in Belgium. First the attack of Turgis to show himself on the balcony from the first kilometers, then the successive mines of Cosnfroy to make the selection, then the flair of Madouas to take the good escape, and finally the good leg of Julian Alaphilippe to reward the audacious plan of this all-risk house agency.

There was even this little sketch 40 meters from the finish between Voeckler and Alaph ‘filmed from the motorbike, where we imagined both the battle plans of Marengo, Arcole, and Austerlitz, deciding on a false descending dish, the ultimate respite from a day of dismantling. Six hours of cycling, stitching up the tubulars while riding, a hundred abandons, cycling as we no longer do.

Jalabert didn’t believe it, neither did we

But in fact no. It’s Julian who shoots up the Disney tale at the microphone of France TV, when his coach comes to hug him. ” We didn’t stick to the plan too much, but it worked anyway ”. Voeckler laughs a little later: “He wanted to know what to do. I told him, “If we get to the sprint, Florian [Sénéchal] get away with it, you do it instinctively, you follow the attacks and you counter afterwards “. Well he attacked several times all alone, it was his instinct that spoke, but he still scared me this idiot” . He also scared Laurent Jalabert, who almost took the cabbage live with Marion Rousse when “Loulou” drew for the first time, almost sixty miles from Louvain. “It’s too far, why go there now, it’s useless. ”Answer between the lines of the Frenchman’s companion:“ He knows what he’s doing ”.

Ok Marion, you know him better than we do, but all the same: to see him move like a fish trapped at the slightest chop on the course, we were not leading off either: it is that we have seen some of those races where Julian attacked like a madman in the middle of the Atlantic, before turning on the flashing light without warning. The last Tour of Flanders, hey, while the Belgians and the Italians are being manicured in the peloton. Shame on us for having doubted before the moment of grace.

An anthology sequence

Three successive buckshot in three kilometers, the last to kill, in the Saint-Antoine coast, not even the most pronounced of the day. Ten seconds ahead, 15 kilometers from the goal. A gap that tops out for a long time suspended, when everything can still tip over. Then Powless and Valgren who let go of the sport camembert. Julian Alaphilippe is world champion for the second year in a row, a first since Sagan’s hat-trick.

The hero of the day, on France TV:

“Last year it was a dream come true for me. It was very difficult to win it once, at the end it was very emotional. I came back relaxed, really relaxed, with a lot of motivation and a kind of relaxation. I just wanted to do well and get the best possible result. I knew the legs were good, in the end I made a little selection, we were well ahead with Florian [Sénéchal] and valentine [Madouas]. Then I said to Florian “Save yourself, I’ll see what happens by trying to create movement” but I didn’t think I would end up on my own. I didn’t think I was able to last until the end. I did myself violence, I was thinking of my little one in the end, hard, I gave up everything ”.

Nothing to do with Imola’s blackboard last year, this start where everyone knew. Sunday, on the Flandrian roads, Alaph ‘demolished all the patterns established in enemy land, in front of a people who were only waiting for the coronation of Van Aert. But the Belgian seum is a specialty that we are starting to know. This Marseillaise sent in two strokes of the cymbal as if to shorten the suffering of the public on the podium, already did not breathe fair play. The whistles and insults during the effort when the crowd realized it was done, either. But what about this jet of beers that almost reached him as he celebrated his triumph a few meters from the finish?

The only Belgians, as usual

“A lot of Belgian fans were asking me to slow down on the last lap, not with very nice words, so I want to thank them because it motivated me to finish stronger”. Let us not take any more offense than that. Our Belgian friends should quickly focus on their witch hunt, of which we guessed the beginnings from the arrival : Why having sacrificed Evenepoel, whose individualistic character had been questioned by the great Eddy Merckx during the week, when Van Aert did not have the legs, as he sheepishly confessed to his teammate Jesper Stuyven after yet another charge of ‘Alaphilippe?

“My conclusion after this race? That I am only human, for sure, reacted the designated leader of Belgium on arrival. Of course, I wasn’t bad, but I just didn’t have the awesome legs you need to be a world champion. When Alaphilippe left for the Smeysberg, I could already feel it, I couldn’t follow. He was simply the strongest today. He continued until no one could follow. As Belgians, we took responsibility for the race and everyone did a fantastic job, which makes the result very disappointing ”.

“Julian (Alaphilippe) adopted the right strategy because it was necessary to trap Wout by attacking several times, applauded for his part Evenepoel. Because Wout is the fastest in the world on a course like this. The France team did what was necessary to wear it down. Julian is a top class rider who is always ready to go to war ”. And to win it once again.

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