Julian Alaphilippe says Wout van Aert deserved the Milan – San Remo victory after beating him in the two-up sprint to decide the first Monument of the season.
The Frenchman had attacked on the Poggio and only the Strade Bianche 2020 winner was able to follow, catching up to the defending champion on the downhill and working together to keep their chasers at bay, deciding to let the faster sprinter take the glory.
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“For sure I have mixed feelings,” Alaphilippe said after losing that sprint. “I’m really happy to be on the podium, I knew that Wout [van Aert] would be really strong and in the end he deserved the victory.”
After the Cipressa and other new climbs of the new inland route had failed to shed fast men such as Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and a sizeable group were looking to make their way to the line together, Alaphilippe attacked on the Poggio in what proved to be the decisive move, Sunweb’s Michael Matthews beating Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in the sprint for the line behind.
“I went full gas on the Poggio, Wout went with me, and on the downhill. I knew I couldn’t stay away alone so we worked together in the last 2km and at the end it was a really hard sprint. We fought against each other and he was stronger.”
Both riders will see each other next week at the Critérium du Dauphiné, where Van Aert will be dialling into life as a domestique ahead of Jumbo-Visma’s Tour de France ambitions. Meanwhile, Alaphilippe’s panache is intact, not even a global pandemic able to dent it, so answers on a postcard please for what the Frenchman could have in store for us at this year’s Tour.