Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) “had nothing to lose” when attacking to gain back the yellow jersey lead on Saturday in the Tour de France‘s Saint-Étienne stage.
With his move at 11km out, he overhauled Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) for the race lead and moved ahead with 23 seconds.
“I knew that I only had six seconds to gain,” Alaphilippe said. “I had to try and attack on the last climb and just go full-gas.
“I didn’t know the final so I just was really focussed on the last kilometres. It was really fast and I had nothing to lose.”
Alaphilippe flew through the early months of 2019 with wins in Strade Bianche, Milan-San Remo and La Flèche Wallonne. In stage three of the Tour, he won solo for the most recognised leader’s jersey.
He could not make enough time to the escape with Italian Ciccone two days ago at La Planche des Belles Filles and he lost the lead. But stage eight gave him a chance for revenge.
“I have nothing to lose, so today my plan was to see how I feel,” he continued. “I’m happy with my legs.”
“I think it’s difficult to do something better. I won already a beautiful stage.”
Saturday’s stage was considered the hardest so far by some riders who finished. It featured nearly 4,000 metres of climbing, up and down, with hairy moments for some including 2018 champion Geraint Thomas (Ineos), who crashed with 15km to race.
Alaphilippe attacked on the last climb with Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) right behind. He claimed some bonus seconds and at the finish, with third place on the line, he took four seconds.
“Thibaut knew that I was going to attack to he was right on my wheel. It was really good to have Thibaut with me,” Alaphilippe added.
“It’s difficult to do better. It was not a battle, it was really nice to work together. It was a mutual arrangement: he took some time on the other favourites.”
Pinot put 20 seconds into rivals including Thomas and Egan Bernal from Team Ineos.
With Alaphilippe’s lead of 23 seconds and 53 over Pinot, it is possible that he could hold the yellow jersey until the stage 13 time trial in Pau.
“I don’t want to think about it,” he continued. “Tomorrow I will enjoy and we will see”