He had dreamed of it so much, of that rainbow jersey. And he had repeated it so many times in his head, this ideal scenario to conquer him on the Imola circuit on Sunday September 27, this title of world champion after which he has been chasing for several years. All that was left was, and Julian Alaphilippe did it, exactly as planned, in the place marked on his tablet.
” I told you so “, the boy could boast. But that’s not the kind of guy to push himself off the collar. Rather to cry a good blow under the effect of the emotion, as on arrival, or to smirk with a knowing air of deceitful trickster. Julian Alaphilippe analyzed things during his pre-race press conference: “We had better be smart, to have a fair race. “ Yes, any interest in the face of adversity, from the Belgian team led by an overpowered Wout Van Aert to the Slovenian team and its two extraordinary champions, Tadej Pogacar, freshly winner of the Tour de France and his elder revenge Primoz Roglic, in passing by Vincenzo Nibali’s Italians pedaling at home.
Julian Alaphilippe therefore played smart, all day huddled in the peloton, forget me gentlemen. And then the France team, even diminished by the absences of Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet, applied themselves to 70 km from the finish to raise the tone, succeeding in a first skimming of the troops. Julian Alaphilippe did not panic when, 30 kilometers later, Tadej Pogacar took a little solitary jaunt. He was not the one who made the effort to catch up with the impetuous man, nor he who wasted his time throwing some banderillas at the start of the last of the 9 laps.
He just bided his time, the one programmed on his internal clock. And he sprang up exactly where he said he would, just before the top of the Gallisterna hill, 11 km from the line. You had to be strong, very strong, to let go of the last big names in that section, take them a few dozen meters before falling into the descent, and above all keep them until the end. Do not relax, do not turn around too much when you know Wout Van Aert, Primoz Roglic and Swiss Marc Hirschi are on their toes. So it also needed a mind of steel in addition to legs of fire.
A cleverly programmed goal
Julian Alaphilippe went to the end, and the least we can say is that he deserves his title. He had had in his sights, this victory on a world championship, in 2017 in Bergen (Norway). But he had been joined on the wire, under the red flame signaling the last mile of the race, and Peter Sagan in the sprint had been the hero of the day. Julian Alaphilippe had finished tenth, bitter disappointment.
He had stuck the following year in Innsbruck (8e), sunk in the Yorkshire rain in 2019 in Leeds (28e), but this year he had made the meeting with Imola the essential objective of his season. It was above all a question of not burning out during the Tour de France, to arrive in full possession of its means on the transalpine circuit.
The Auvergnat did not miss his shot: he had never been on the podium, he reached the top step. Ninth French runner to see life in the rainbow. “I got in full, I hurt myself, I drew very far, it’s a great reward, he blurted out. I can be proud, yes. “ Yes.