Julian Alaphilippe will aim to wear the yellow jersey in the first week of the 2019 Tour de France, beginning on Saturday (July 6) in Brussels.
The Deceuninck – Quick-Step Frenchman – winner of Strade Bianche, Milan-San Remo, Flèche Wallonne this season – wants to put on the leader’s colour in the Tour after last year winning the polka dot jersey and two stages.
“I will not race for the general classification, but I have the opportunity to ride for the yellow jersey at the beginning of the Tour,” Alaphilippe said.
“The legs will decide and the first week will determine how I will race afterwards. The team time trial will be important for us – it is an effort that I like and the level of my team-mates gives me a lot of confidence. And there is the Épernay finale [on stage three], solid, for explosive riders, which suits me perfectly, where I can test myself.”
The second stage of the Tour de France 2019 is a team time trial, covering 27.6km around the Belgian capital. The next day, when entering France, the race faces an Ardennes Classics type finish with several Côtes through Champagne country leading to a small uphill finish in Épernay.
With the combination of the sprint finish and team time trial in Brussels on days one and two and stage three to Épernay, Alaphilippe believes he has a chance to wear the yellow jersey. It is easy to imagine a him in the lead given his spring and recent form in the Critérium du Dauphiné, winning stage six to Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne.
In 2018, he won the Tour de France stages to Le Grand-Bornand and Bagnères-de-Luchon to help take the mountains classification in Paris.
“It is true that the [mountains] jersey suits my style. When you wear it once you always think about it a little,” he said. “I keep it in a corner of my mind but it is not my priority.”
First, he wants to aim at the yellow jersey: “And we’ll see if I change my plans, instead going for a stage victory and the polka dot jersey.”
Alaphilippe, 27, races his third Tour and with more confidence, and pressure, than ever.
“I am more than satisfied with my start of the season. I fulfilled the objectives that I had set myself and even more. This makes it possible to arrive on the Tour more relaxed, in spite of the pressure, the expectations, and everything around the race,” he said. “The results take away the pressure, but we always want more.”