Julian Alaphilippe is at the Tour de France for stage wins. He's made that clear. But what about when they lead him to the yellow jersey?
The plan last year wasn't to mount a GC challenge either, but the yellow jersey has a funny way of finding itself onto the Frenchman's shoulders more often than not - something which is probably less funny for his rivals.
"When you’re in yellow you have to respect the jersey, you have to respect the race, we are in the biggest race of the world. So for sure, it’s always special to be in yellow," Alaphilippe said after his victory.
"Tomorrow it’s for the sprinters so we will try again for Sam [Bennett]. My goal was to win a stage, I've won, I'm in yellow, now it’s just a bonus. I will take pleasure and try again in the coming days."
Reading between the lines, it seems to be a battle between Alaphilippe's heart and his head. Burning fewer matches and preserving himself for the stages that suit him will likely return greater rewards, but the allure of the GC and the symbiotic nature of a Frenchman in yellow seems to be irresistible, especially considering how close he came last year.
"This victory is a relief, it reassures me about my condition and my goal is now to keep going the same way," Alaphillipe revealed. "It doesn’t change the plans for the GC, I will defend the jersey with honour and aggressiveness but I didn't come here to win the Tour de France, I came here for stage wins. The yellow jersey is just a bonus. I never imagined I would [take it this Tour]."
Let's ask him again whether the yellow jersey is just a bonus when it's still on his shoulders in two weeks time. "I’ll take it day by day, it doesn't change anything for the defence of the yellow jersey."
The victory, which Alaphilippe says was thanks to the perfect scenario of having Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Marc Hirschi (Sunweb) as collaborators in holding off the advancing peloton while riding into a headwind, was an emotional one for the Frenchman, having lost his father in June.
"It’s been a tough year for me. I lost my father in June and that’s why I really wanted to win for him today."
After a chaotic and unprecedented start to the Tour de France, having Julian Alaphilippe back on the podium is a welcome return to normality.
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