Julian Alaphilippe

(JEFF PACHOUD/AFP/Getty Images)

Nationality: French
Date of birth: June 11, 1992
Team: Deceuninck – Quick-Step
Twitter: @alafpolak

Julian Alaphilippe has the same mystique as the French riders of old. A puncheur who rides with his heart, rather than head, he has had a star-studded career that has seen him victorious in a mixture of Classics and stage races. The 2019 Tour de France saw a flying Alaphilippe claim the yellow jersey in stage three. With his climbing legs clearly better than many expected, he managed to keep the jersey until the decisive stage 19 (bar two brief stages early in the race), where it was relinquished to the eventual winner, Egan Bernal.

The Frenchman began his career as a cyclocross rider, before signing for the Etixx-IHNed team, the development squad for the WorldTour team Omega Pharma-Quick-Step. The 2013 season was his breakthrough year, with a stage win at the Tour de l’Avenir, which saw him bumped up to the elite Quick-Step squad and take his first professional win in stage four of the Tour de l’Ain.

After having gained experience in a domestique role, his first major chance came in the 2015 La Fléche Wallonne, when he made the crucial split before finishing second behind Alejandro Valverde, ahead of Classics veteran Michael Albasini. Alaphillipe backed up this result on the following weekend at Liége-Bastogne-Liége, proving that Fléche Wallonne was no fluke. A stellar season ended early with a diagnosis of glandular fever and extreme fatigue.

Building on his 2015 form, he placed second again in La Fléche Wallonne the following year, before clinching overall victory at the Tour of California. A strong showing at the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Tour de France in 2016 cemented his place as a young rider to watch. A few weeks later, he battled to fourth in the Olympic road race after a heavy crash on the final descent.

The Frenchman missed the 2017 Classics season and the Tour due to a knee injury, however his debut Vuelta a España appearance resulted in his maiden Grand Tour stage win, with the remaining riders of the day’s breakaway unable to hold his wheel on the final climb.

The consecutive second places in the previous three years at La Fléche Wallonne clearly hung over Alaphillipe, with 2018 being the year to rectify this. He launched his attack on the final ascent of the Mur de Huy, dropping Valverde. In a post race interview he spoke about finding the “bit that was missing between the podium and first place.” He rounded out a stellar season with two Tour stage wins and the GC at the Tour of Britain.

In many ways, 2019 was the year of Alaphillipe. Successive victories in Strade Bianche,  Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo was merely a taste of what was to come. The Tour that year saw him win two stages as well the hearts of the entire French nation. His surprising climbing ability, well into the third week, pushed Ineos onto the back foot and many willed the Frenchman onto victory.

Alas, the now famous stage 19 landslide saw Alaphillipe lose his grip of the jersey. It still remains uncertain as to where his future lay. He clearly has the ability to last the three weeks, but it seems his desire is to follow in the footsteps of the Classics greats.