Julian Alaphilippe is "exhausted" and "disappointed" as he admits he's not yet in his best form as he already finds himself behind schedule in 2020.
After a phenomenal 2019 season, the Frenchman has readily admitted he will struggle to match last year's achievements and has already been forced to abandon two races so far this year.
After suffering from stomach problems at the Vuelta a San Juan he failed to take the start line on stage three, then failing to finish the Ardèche Classic on February 29, before battling through a soaking wet Drôme Classic the following day. Alaphilippe eventually finished in 17th, two minutes down on winner Simon Clarke (EF Pro Cycling).
"I am exhausted and the rain has really demolished me. I'm not at my best yet," the Deceuninck - Quick-Step rider told l'Équipe (opens in new tab).
His sports director Davide Bramati added: "Julian is disappointed because he wanted to win, but when the rain came, his legs became stiff."
Alaphilippe has a packed Classics campaign ahead of him, lining up at Milan - San Remo and La Flèche Wallonne as defending champion, while also looking to potentially add Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Amstel Gold Race or even the Tour of Flanders to his palmarès.
Before that, though, he has Paris-Nice, where poor conditions will be expected once more. The 27-year-old had planned to recon the last three stages this week but will cancel the trip in place of some much-needed rest. "I'm taking a step back," Alaphilippe said, "because I have to recover."
“Let's stay calm. He has another week to Paris-Nice," Bramati said, attempting to quell any worry over the form of the rider who brought France the closest in years to a Tour de France victory last summer.
Alaphilippe has always been realistic about 2020, saying before a single pedal stroke at the start of January: "For sure I will do my best to go again, to have another great season. I’ve realised that last year was really special with a lot of victories, quality victories, and a lot of emotion. So it will be really difficult to do something like that again but I will try my best."
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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.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and 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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