Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) says he is “exhausted, happy and proud” of his Tour de France after dropping down the GC on Saturday’s final mountain stage.
The Frenchman dropped from second overall to fifth after cracking on the final climb of stage 20 to Val Thorens, losing three minutes to the GC group containing Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos), Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) and Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), who all move ahead of him to second, third and fourth respectively behind race leader Egan Bernal (Team Ineos).
Alaphilippe has been one of the key animators of the race, winning the third stage to take the overall lead, which he’s held for a total of 14 days despite losing the yellow jersey for two days to Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo). The 27-year-old defied the odds to win the stage 13 time trial in Pau to extend his lead before holding on through some tough Pyrenean stages against the pure climbers.
In the Alps however, the cracks started to show. The downhill finish to stage 18’s passage over the Galibier meant he was able to get back to the overall contenders after being dropped, with only Bernal gaining time. He couldn’t hold on during the shortened stage 19 though, with Bernal taking yellow after taking over two minutes out of him to the top of the Col d’Iseran where GC times were ultimately taken.
On stage 20, which was reduced to just 59km, Alaphilippe was dropped with around 13km to go to the finish and quickly saw his second place running away from him.
With the help of team-mate Enric Mas though, he was able to mitigate his losses to just three minutes, saying that it could have been much more.
“I gave it my all. I think it was hard to do better,” Alaphilippe said at the finish of stage 20.
“I was expecting to explode at some point. But I still maintained well. I’m very proud of what my team-mate Enric Mas did for me, it was his job and he did it really well. Without him, I would have finished at a quarter of an hour I think. That’s my temperament. With me, it’s a bit all or nothing.
“I was second overall before the stage this morning. If I was second, or fifth, it was the same for me but I fought because I didn’t want to have any regrets. I can only be proud of my Tour. It’s even way beyond what I would have imagined.”
You could be forgiven for thinking Alaphilippe may be left frustrated by his Tour, potentially his best ever chance to win a three-week race.
But despite coming so close to overall victory, Alaphilippe says he can not be dissatisfied about the Tour he has had, which has still seen him take his highest ever Grand Tour overall finish by a huge margin, having finished 33rd at last year’s Tour.
“Why should I be frustrated?” he said.
“I’m just exhausted, happy, proud of what I did, what we did with the team that wasn’t the best equipped to win. We’ve had some great times.
“In my career, it will have changed a lot of things. It’s just sport, moments of life you have to enjoy. It’s nice.”