Julian Alaphilippe: ‘The Belgian fans asked me to slow down and weren’t very nice - that gave me extra motivation’

The French star power clear of Belgian favourite Wout van Aert on his way to another rainbow jersey

Julian Alaphilippe
Julian Alaphilippe
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Julian Alaphilippe says the heckles from Belgian fans spurred him on to win his second the rainbow jersey in the 2021 World Championships.

Star rider Alaphilippe, who races for Belgian team Deceuninck - Quick-Step in the regular season, put in three staggering attacks in the final 20km of the elite men’s road race on Sunday (September 26), successfully defending his 2020 title. 

It was in the French colours that Julian Alaphilippe broke the hearts of the fans in Flanders, as he powered clear of home favourites Wout van Aert and Jasper Stuyven in the closing kilometres.

As Alaphilippe soloed towards the finish on the roads of Flanders, Belgian fans could be seen gesturing to the defending champion to slow down as Jasper Stuyven, born in the finish city of Leuven, was part of the chasing group behind.  

Speaking after the finish, Alaphilippe said: “Well last year it was a dream come true for me. It was very difficult, but a fantastic feeling. I know what it is to have a year in the rainbow jersey so I had a lot of motivation but I didn’t have any pressure really.” 

On whether he believed he could defend his jersey when he woke up on the morning of the race, Alaphilippe said: “It wasn’t something I had in mind. I didn’t think it would happen, I didn’t think it would be possible.” 

It was an unforgettable performance by Alaphilippe, who put in a trio off attacks in the closing kilometres to dispatch his nearest rivals, including the chosen Belgian leader Wout van Aert. 

While a chasing group behind, which included Stuyven, Dylan van Baarle (Netherlands) and Michael Valgren (Denmark,) tried to close the gap to Alaphilippe, the latter was able to extend his advantage on the final lap to delivery a huge victory.

On what he thought about as he attacked solo, Alaphilippe said: “It was horrible. I don’t have any words. It was hard. I thought about my son. I would give everything for him.

“A lot of Belgian fans also asked me to slow down and they weren’t very nice, that gave me extra motivation.”  

Alex Ballinger
Alex Ballinger

Alex is the digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter and now as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output.

Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) and joining CW in 2018, Alex has covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers. 

Away from journalism, Alex is a national level time triallist, avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.