Julian Alaphilippe faced questions about his ride in the 2019 Tour de France but points critics to the work he put in beforehand.
As is often the case with big performances in the world's biggest bike race, which has been rocked by doping scandals in recent years, eyebrows raise.
Deceuninck - Quick-Step rider Alaphilippe's amazing nine-day ride in the yellow jersey, including a Pau time trial win ahead of Geraint Thomas ( Team Ineos) on stage 13 led to some to ask if he was clean.
"I'm not here to answer to suspicions, I know the work I've done to get here," Alaphilippe responded.
"I'm the first to be surprised to be where I am now. I know that being in first position makes people always talk.
"If I was last in the classification, though I respect Yoann Offredo, I wouldn't have these kind of questions. I ride my bike the way I like, but everything else makes me laugh."
Alaphilippe, wearing the yellow jersey for the ninth day, blasted ahead of all his rivals in the 27.2km time trail. He beat Thomas by 14 seconds to move further ahead overall to 1-26.
"I am now in a situation where I couldn't imagine it myself," he responded when asked if he can believed.
"I came to the Tour super-motivated with many wins under my belt."
The 27-year-old Frenchman won two stages and the mountains classification in the 2018 Tour de France, finishing 33rd overall as Thomas took home the yellow jersey.
In the 2019, he powered through the one-day races, winning Strade Bianche, Milan-San Remo amd Flèche Wallonne. At the Tour de France 2019, he started with a solo win on stage three Épernay and went into the race lead.
"I surprised myself getting the yellow jersey. I used a lot of energy, but I didn't imagine wearing the yellow jersey and winning the time trial in front of Geraint Thomas," he continued.
"Now I am a spectator in front of my own show, I'm surprised every day.
"I'm in the Tour, I ride my bike the way I like to do it. The difference is the Tour amplifies everything, but tomorrow is a different story. I 'm expecting to be attacked in the mountains."
Most believe that Alaphilippe will not hold on to become the first Frenchman to win the Tour de France since Bernard Hinault in 1985. The high mountains, starting with the 2115-metre summit finish at Tourmalet, are expected to shake him.
"I will give my max, but if I crack, I will be there to help Enric Mas. If I lose it, I'll know I'd have given everything to keep the yellow jersey."
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