Sean Yates Tour de France column: It’s not a surprise Alaphilippe is in yellow, but he won’t last the week

In this week’s Tour de France column, Sean Yates looks at the Frenchman’s chances of holding the race lead

(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Sean Yates is former British national champion, wearer of the yellow jersey and is now an ambassador for Ribble Bikes (opens in new tab).

We’re through the first week of the 2019 Tour de France and we’ve had something for everyone.

We’ve seen a fantastic slightly uphill sprint won by Peter Sagan, a nice steep finish on La Planche des Belle Filles, and an unbelievable win by Thomas De Gendt on undulating terrain. We’ve seen good, hard racing.

The first rest day is a long time coming for the riders, after the build up before the start of the Tour and the tense first few stages where everyone is nervous – a day away from the peloton will be well-received.

Julian Alaphilippe leads the race after stage 10 and I’m not surprised he is where he is.

We’ve known for some time that he’s one of the big talents of the peloton and he’s still young, improving all the time.

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His ride on La Planche des Belles Filles was probably the best performance we’ve ever seen from him, on a climb probably twice as long as those in Liège-Bastogne-Liège where I’d expect him to be a top favourite.

How long can Alaphilippe hold the jersey? I’ve seen people throwing out the idea that he could be a GC contender.

No one’s got a crystal ball and it’s impossible to know how far an individual can go, but I would be hugely surprised if Alaphilippe is in the top-10 after the summit finish on stage 14 – there’s a hell of a difference between the 6km of La Planche des Belles Filles and the Tourmalet.

For the future, who knows. Typically he’s not got the physique or the background of a climber, but he has fantastic performance over short distances. He’s probably the best in the world on a short sharp climbs where it's all about watts per kilogram, but the physiological build of a pure climber, one who can sustain a high watts per kilo over an hour, on multiple occasions in one day, is different.

Alaphilippe is still young and people like to jump around and get excited about guys like him or [Peter] Sagan one day being a GC contender, but we’ve seen it time and time again. You can only modify a rider’s makeup so much by training differently, by losing some weight, but ultimately they are what they are.

I think Alaphilippe should stick with what he knows best – he should concentrate on explosive races, shorter stage races, and targeting the yellow jersey when the terrain suits his characteristics.

Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) has been disappointing. He’ll want to try his luck but he’s never going to win the Tour unless the other favourites crash out.

Mikel Landa and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) are playing the long game, on their way to second place at best.

Geraint is the favourite by miles; he’s just looking so much better than anyone else out there with Bernal as a tidy backup. If Ineos want to secure the win, they need to keep both riders up there and let G pull ahead, particularly in the time trial when its safe to assume he’s going to put time into all the other contenders.

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I can see G and Bernal coming out of the Tourmalet stage in first and second on GC.

Looking at the second week, you’ve got the Peyresourde on stage 12 and I think the GC guys will still be looking at each other.

Then when it comes to the time trial, G will do the business and put more time into the GC contenders and then again on the Tourmalet the following day.

If G really smashes everyone up in the second week and gets that psychological barrier, his rivals will be forced to try and climb over to fight for the minor places.

There are a lot of tired bodies in the peloton, but come the third week there will be a lot of shattered bodies.

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