Julian Alaphilippe's (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) goal after a superb spring – winning Strade Bianche, Milan-San Remo and La Flèche Wallonne – was to wear the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, and on stage three he "had to seize the opportunity."
"I had just won the stage and was recovering," Alaphilippe said of his tears at the stage three finish.
"I knew I won the stage, perhaps yellow. I dreamt so much of this happening... I had to try something. Its unbelievable that it happened."
He won the stage with an attack at 16 kilometres from Épernay, crossing the line solo with 26 seconds and took the overall lead with 20 seconds over Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
"When you have an opportunity, you have to seize it. To have the stage win and yellow is the most beautiful I could do."
The day from Belgium into France's Champagne region looked like an Ardennes Classics, prompting Mitchelton-Scott sports director Matt White say it was perfectly designed for Alaphilippe.
"I was very motivated for today," he added. "On the last climb, Côte de Mutigny, the legs didn't feel too bad, so I went.
"So I was alone to the finish but knew I need 30 to 40 seconds. I gave everything."
Last year, he won the Grand-Bornand and Bagnères-de-Luchon stages and the mountains jersey in the Tour de France. He started this year first with the goal of wearing the yellow jersey.
Now he has it, and he will try to hold the jersey for as long as possible, perhaps through stage six, the first summit finish.
"I will continue doing things as I do. I will try to help Elia Viviani in the sprints, the Vosges may be too hard for me," he said.
"But I will try to keep it as long as possible. It's the reward for all the work I do, a reward for the road I have taken since starting cycling."
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