Two of the most prominent French riders, Arnaud Démare and Julian Alaphilippe, both have books out this off-season, published just in time for Christmas.
Alaphilippe reveals had a number of extra-curricular offers following his Worlds win in Imola in 2020, documentaries and Netflix series, but decided a book would be the most time-efficient as he readied himself for a year in the rainbow bands (also the title of his book) and also acclimatised to becoming a father for the first time.
Démare's literary effort, meanwhile, has made headlines following promotional interviews where he questioned the varying standards of the peloton, pointing to the fact some teams allow the use of ketones, while others don't.
“I wonder about the peloton," Démare said. "But I’m only saying what many people are seeing. Not everyone has the same restrictions on certain products like ketones. I am part of a team that has made commitments, as have others. But the whole peloton is not like us."
Asked about Démare's comments, Alaphilippe countered by saying he understands riders having doubts but that even when he sees rivals who have a higher level than him, he doesn't let himself worry about any doubts as to the legitimacy of their performance. Otherwise, it would sap the motivation to train.
"I saw that Arnaud had released a book, I haven't read it but I hope to read it, yes. His doubts? I'll see when I read it, but I'm not sure what it's about," Alaphilippe told Ouest France. "Of course, there are riders in the peloton who can express doubts, wonder, even the general public can. But as long as you know what you're doing, where you are quiet in your boots, I don't have a problem like that. Even if there are riders who are stronger than me, who "dominate", from the moment you start to have doubts, that you think about things like that, it is useless to go train…"
At 30, Alaphilippe says he's aware he's halfway through his career but still sees himself as a 21-year-old neo-pro, ready to take on the world.
“The races that make me dream the most and that I have not yet won are clearly Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Tour of Lombardy and the Tour of Flanders," he admits. "I know I can win them. These are goals that I set for myself by the end of my career. Paris - Roubaix, it's a small challenge we will say. Sometimes I need the unknown, new things, to bounce back. 2024, for example, is in the back of my mind too. I haven't been to Tokyo and I know why [his son was born only a few weeks earlier], but I know why I will be going to Paris."
While he will decide his plans for 2022 at a December training camp, the Tour de France will of course be a focal point once more, but Alaphilippe is still not yet ready to entirely dedicate himself to trying to win the yellow jersey, keen to impress and be competitive in the Classics.
"I am aware of what people dream of," Alaphilippe says of whether he can win the yellow jersey. 'And I know that there are a lot of people who want to see a French winner of the Tour. I'm part of it, I would be very happy to see a Frenchman win. If I set myself that goal, and if I succeed, that would be the highest possible point.
"But I also set myself so many goals next to the Tour that I know that when I set myself this [yellow jersey] kind of goal, I won't be able to be everywhere. For the moment, I have made this choice to focus more on the Classics and to have big seasons, to be ready for the Tour but without having the idea of playing everything the general. It's a choice, some are betting everything on the Tour and we see them less at the start of the season, some are present at the start of the season."
Impish as ever, both off and on the bike, Alaphilippe admits that when he does eventually decide to challenge for the Tour's general classification, he'll be keeping that plan to himself, hoping to take his rivals by surprise.
“I focus on what I dream of myself rather than wanting to be where people want to see me. We must always put things into perspective. In any case, the day I decide to bet everything on the Tour, whether it works or it doesn't, I won't be shouting it from the rooftops because there is already enough pressure like that."
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