Going into the stage to La Planche des Belles Filles, Tour de France leader Julian Alaphilippe acknowledged that his hold on the yellow jersey would come under threat, and despite another brave and gutsy performance that saw the Frenchman almost collapse on the line following a heroic effort to keep the jersey, he dropped to second overall, half a dozen seconds behind the surprise figure of Giulio Ciccone.
“I’m not too disappointed at losing the yellow jersey,” Alaphilippe said at the finish. “I did everything that I could on the final climb and the team did all that they could throughout the stage. In the end, Ciccone got the yellow jersey thanks to the time bonuses he won. I don’t feel like we made a mistake.”
The Frenchman added: “I’ve had the yellow jersey for three days and there’s still a chance that I might be able to get it back.”
Given his deficit of six seconds, the opportunity to do so could come as early as stage seven, but stage eight to Saint Étienne, with 3,800 metres of climbing and its bonus point offering eight seconds to the first rider over the final climb, offers a better opportunity.
Trek climber Ciccone said that his only goal during the day was to take the stage victory.
“That was my focus and I wasn’t making any calculations for the yellow jersey because I knew we could lose a lot of time at the very end of the stage when the team leaders would be flat out,” said the 25-year-old Italian.
“Even going up the final ramp, I was only thinking about the stage win and I was very disappointed when I crossed the finish line, especially when I was told first of all that I was going to be second on GC as well as second on the stage. But then I was told I was first and I can’t describe how satisfied I felt.”
Ciccone played down any prospect of him battling the GC favourites to keep the yellow jersey, saying his role will be to support Trek team leader Richie Porte.
“The big goal for my season was the Giro. The Tour wasn’t on my programme, but bearing in mind the good condition I had coming out of the Giro, the team decided to bring me to the Tour as well to help Richie and the team, and to gain experience,” said the Italian, who won the mountains title and a stage in his national tour.
“But now I have the yellow jersey and there’s a flat stage tomorrow, so now I want to honour this jersey and do the best I can to retain until I have to switch my focus to helping Richie Porte.”