Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) could wear the yellow jersey through the second week of the Tour de France, say rivals.
Alaphilippe took the famous top in his home tour yesterday with a solo stage win and a lead of 20 seconds over Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma). The classification riders are further back, perhaps enough of a buffer for Alaphilippe to survive stage six over La Planche des Belles Filles.
“I’d imagine he can keep it quite a bit, even on Planche des Belles Filles, it’s not a super long climb, it’s quite steep, but the way he’s going. He can hold it for quite a while,” Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) told Cycling Weekly.
“He climbs quite well. I remember in 2016, I was fighting for the white jersey. We already did some mountain stages there and he was up there. And this 2019 season, he has been up there in tough mountain stages.”
In 2018, Alaphilippe won two mountain stages and the mountain jersey classification in the Tour de France. His hot run this spring included victories in Strade Bianche, Milan-San Remo and the Flèche Wallonne.
“A while I think, I have no reason to think why he can’t keep it up Planche des Belles Filles,” Geraint Thomas (Ineos) explained “He has a good advantage.
“If he does [keep it after stage six], he can keep it a long time. Maybe to… Well, a lot can happen, you never know, but he can keep it to the time trial.”
“He can keep it a long time, the sixth stage is hard, but I think that he could also do well,” Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) said. “I think he can keep it through the end of the second week.”
Stage six climbs seven kilometres to the top of La Planche des Belles Filles before more mixed and flat stages that Alaphilippe can handle. Only the 27.2km time trial in Pau, stage 13, could stop his yellow jersey run.
“The yellow jersey gives you motivation and for sure, he’ll try to finish well on the Planche des belles Filles. Definitely looking at him yesterday, when he attacked, he looks to be in impressive shape. In my opinion, he can do it,” Michał Kwiatkowski (Ineos) said.
“Can he win the Tour? I believe not, but I would not give him much more time than we gave him yesterday.”
Ineos are happy to let Alaphilippe enjoy as much time in the yellow jersey and for his team to drive the group. It will have its work later, when Ineos hopes to be riding for Bernal or Thomas in yellow.
“We still want to be riding at the front anyway,” Thomas added, “but if we don’t have that extras pressure of riding for the jersey then it helps.”