By Jonny Long
The customary summer party hosted by Julian Alaphilippe at the Tour de France got underway without delay, barely time for an hors d'oeuvre before the Frenchman won the opening stage and took the first yellow jersey of the 2021 race, his total number of days spent in yellow now 18.
Although he's three short of equalling the 21 that make up the French Grand Tour, the Deceuninck - Quick-Step rider once again reiterated he has no interest in trying to keep it on his back until Sunday July 18 when the peloton arrives in Paris for the final stage 21.
"My goal is not to gain time, my goal is to win. I won today and tomorrow suits me pretty well again," Alaphilippe said, having finished eight seconds ahead of BikeExchange's Michael Matthews, and the 10 extra bonus seconds taking him 18 clear for the timebeing.
"My intention was to win a stage as soon as possible, I had to make the race hard from the foot of the climb," the world champion continued, explaining why he attacked from 2km out, still a way to go to the finish and showing great strength to hold it to the line. "My intention was to get rid of some sprinters and other riders who are fast and go well in the climbs. We made the selection, after that I gave my best, it was very difficult to hold on to the lead until the line."
Deceuninck - Quick-Step made no secret of their intention, riding hard all day before Kasper Asgreen ratcheted it up a notch for Dries Devenyns to put everyone in the red.
"I made a maximum effort just to see what was going on, maybe to see if I could take advantage of a flatter section to then recover, but I realised I made a gap and I did everything to maintain this gap," he recounted.
"I thought maybe the small group behind would catch me but no, they didn’t, and I’m very happy with that."
Alaphilippe is the first rider to go from the rainbow to yellow jersey on stage one of the Tour since Bernard Hinault did it at the 1981 Tour, 30 years and one day ago.
"I have no words, this is something crazy. It’s special for me to win at the Tour with the rainbow jersey. I left home just a few days after the birth of my son. That was a difficult moment. But I know why I came here, what I came here for. I wanted to get a win and this is a nice win. I did it from the first day. Had I been told some years ago I would exchange rainbow for yellow I wouldn’t have believed it," Alaphilippe said, adding he'd never believed in the curse of the rainbow jersey, and is now proving that for him, at least, it doesn't exist.
"Getting the rainbow was one of my biggest dreams, I take a lot of pleasure from it. It’s changed a lot in my racing, it’s something heavy to wear and a lot of pressure. I’ve still won races with it, however. I think I handle my world champion status very well and I wear this jersey with pride. I don’t think there’s any curse."
Of tomorrow's stage two, similar to today's, Alaphilippe hasn't recced it but gives a reminder that he's made the top 10 on the climb before at the Tour. The home favourite has an almost insatiable appetite for victory and clearly isn't done just yet.
Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races. I'm 6'0", 26 years old, have a strong hairline and have an adequate amount of savings for someone my age. I'm very single at the minute so if you know anyone, hit me up.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab, reporting about students evacuating their bowels on nightclub dancefloors and consecrating their love on lecture hall floors. I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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