As much, we are not very hot for a too regular World Cup, as Fifan would like, as much, a world cycling championship that would take place once every two years, we would campaign for almost. At least for this year. Because, clearly, we are still slashing the champagne of the supreme title obtained by Julian Alaphilippe last year in Imola (Italy). Barely enough time to reserve a cup that our Frenchman will, perhaps, abandon his rainbow tunic on Sunday in Belgium.
One year with the world champion’s jersey and one has the impression that Julian did not make it really shine. Severe ? Yes, surely, seeing his results: a victory over the Flèche Brabant ten days after his world title, arms raised on the Flèche Wallonne, two second places at the Strade Bianche and Liège-Bastogne-Liège and places of honor on the Amstel and the Clasica San Sebastian. “Alaph”, what. Not to mention his magnificent success during the first stage of the Tour de France, at the top of the Fosse-aux-Loups, this summer. “He has always been at the top, combative, savors Rik Van Slycke, sporting director of the Deceuninck-Quick Step. He always wanted to win more with his world champion jersey. “
“Julian got a little carried away on the Tour”
So why this feeling of “a little less good season” for Julian, as Luc Leblanc, the 1994 world champion told us. Yes, the Wolf Pack rider did not win Milan-Sanremo. Yes, he has not spent more than ten days in yellow on the Grande Boucle. Yes, he hasn’t won several stages on French roads. But still ? “Julian got a little excited after his victory in the first stage of the Tour de France, concedes Leblanc, who will be in Louvain on Sunday to support the French. He did a bit of nonsense, attacking a lot. He was messy. That’s a shame. “
Van Der Poel too strong for Alaphilippe on the Strade Bianche via @20minutesSport https://t.co/YQK6ShzJGM
— 20 Minutes Sport (@20minutesSport) March 6, 2021
After the loss of the yellow jersey, from the second stage of the Tour, we saw him attacking at all costs, on a bit of all terrains, and often for very little. Three weeks of battling to get home quarrelsome. “He always found good reasons to try again”, testified his coach and uncle, Franck Alaphilippe in The team. Same thing during the Tour of Flanders, where, after his retirement in the previous edition, he wanted to perform. And, while we thought he could compete with the best, legs broke 20 miles from the finish, thank you, goodbye.
“He is more organized in his life”
“We are not disappointed,” continues Van Slycke. We set goals at the start of the season and he completed them. It’s still a great season, plus the birth of her son. ”A happy event, a few days before the start of the Tour, which can also explain its somewhat sloppy Grande Boucle. The nights are worse, the attention is elsewhere, the physical and mental preparation complicated … Suddenly, no choice, the break was necessary after the Tour. And it was the Olympics that went to the guillotine to better recover.
Julian is someone who lives above all on emotion and the arrival of his son, it stimulated him, gave him strength, details Van Slycke. He has become even more mature, more professional: he performs more intensive, stricter training, he allows himself more moments of recovery. He is generally more organized in his life. “
It takes that to fight on equal terms with Mathieu Van der Poel and Wout Van Aert, “great riders on whom Julian has fallen this year”, recognizes the member of the staff of the Deceuninck-Quick Step. Because, yes, the problem also comes from there. If “Alaph” earns a little less compared to 2018 or 2019, it is because, in its register, there are now two monsters who do not want to leave anything to anyone.
Extra pressure with the world champion jersey
And a second place behind the Belgian, like recently on the Tour of Great Britain, where the Dutchman cannot be seen as a poor performance. “Now, there are real champions with whom he wrestles, adds the sporting director. Success sometimes comes down to nothing. In cycling, it is 10 to 20 cm that decide if you win or not. “Centimeters, maybe even millimeters, that didn’t smile on him too much. Remember, Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2020, where confident Julian raises his arms and gets his hair done on the line by Roglic. Cruel.
A blow to the decanter which did not prevent him from raising his arms far too early, without consequence this time, a week later on the Brabant Arrow. “You have to understand that this jersey weighs on the shoulders, assures Rik Van Slycke. Runners always want to show they deserve to wear it. Suddenly, you live a little according to the gaze of others. If everyone thinks you’re going to attack 1km from the finish, then you’re going to attack 2km. Everything has to be more spectacular with this jersey. “
“He will be in battle”
Alaphilippe recognized it himself at the end of the Tour: “Frankly, we don’t realize what this jersey has claimed from me, physically and psychologically. And I was always asked for more. “” There is always a pressure to appear well with this jersey, adds Luc Leblanc, who, in 1994, could not make his rainbow tunic shine because of a bad team choice and physical problems. . Me, it is my greatest regret not to have been able to honor this title. And then there is the ego which matters too. We always want to show more. But Julian has stuck to his principles. “
Sunday, in Leuven, Alaphilippe will once again be among the favorites, even if Wout Van Aert will have the most beautiful sign of the peloton. “The course suits him all the same very well, forecast Leblanc. If he does as usual, he can win the race. And, I think, he will have extra motivation with the two facing him in this kind of race. “Julian knows where he needs to be,” concludes Rik Van Slycke. If he has the legs, he will be there. He is physically ready. Barring a fall or mechanical trouble, he will be in the fight. It’s not going to be easy, but cycling is never easy. “