The days are numbered for Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) and his yellow jersey at the 2019 Tour de France.
The Frenchman, on the second rest day, says that it is “hanging by a thread” with three high Alpine stages to come in the final week before the finish in Paris.
“The hardest is yet to come,” Alaphilippe said.
“And a minute and a half is a lot and a little at the same time, just faltering on a 15-, 20-kilometre climb and it’s over.”
The rider better known for his one-day wins, such as Milan-San Remo this spring, survived the Tourmalet and Prat d’Albis. However, he appeared to be weakening as the days rolled on.
On Sunday, Geraint Thomas (Ineos) moved closer and now sits second at only 1-35 in second place.
“The climb of Val Thorens [Saturday]… It will be terrible to the top. When I look at the profile of these Alpine stages, I tell myself that my jersey is hanging on my a thread,” he continued.
“As we get closer to Paris, the more the feeling is different, the more it’s special, but with regards to the difficult stages coming up, I’m realistic. The hardest part is still ahead. I don’t want to dream, but I’m going to give it everything.”
Most did not believe that he would hold the jersey for 11 days when he took it by winning stage three solo. However, he happily has and even at one point had many wondering if he could hold on to Paris for the overall win.
It would be the first by a home rider since 1985 with Bernard Hinault. However, even Alaphilippe is beginning to think it could be over soon.
“I’m very happy with what I’ve done so far,” he explained.
“It has just been an added bonus to hold on to it every day now. I want it to continue to do so. I’m going to give everything right until the end.”
Belgian WorldTour team Deceuninck-Quick-Step are better known for the Classics, but they have Grand Tour riders with Bob Jungels and Enric Mas. Spaniard Mas began as the team’s general classification leader for the Tour, but he has been suffering.
On Sunday, Deceuninck went to work for Alaphilippe, even having sprinter Elia Viviani pulling on the climbs to defend the yellow jersey.
“We do not have the team to win the Tour. We knew that when we arrived with three leaders,” Alaphilippe explained.
The team arrived with Alaphilippe for stages, Viviani for sprints and Mas for the overall. Unlike Ineos, stacked with GC support men, it is spread thin.
“To play the final victory, we need riders who climb well,” said team boss Patrick Lefevere. “So, we won’t dream too much.”