A fast finish followed by a calming wave of the hands – that’s how Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal – Quick Step) took his first WorldTour victory in 14 months, re-announcing himself to the cycling world now he no longer has the rainbow jersey on his back to mark himself out in the peloton.
On the uphill drag to the finish of the Critérium du Dauphiné’s stage two, EF Education EasyPost’s Richard Carapaz was the final rider to hit out on the approach to the finish, the Ecuadorian’s move good enough for second place, but Alaphilippe timed his sprint to perfection, able to sit up across the line and unveil a celebration that sent a message as he took his second win of the year following the Faun-Ardèche Classic back in February. Trek-Segafredo’s Natneal Tesfatsion was third while the yellow jersey Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma) was fourth.
Laporte and Alaphilippe are now tied in first overall, with Laporte retaining the jersey due to the Frenchman’s superior combined placings over the first two stages.
“I have had a few difficult months and had to be patient. No one can take this away from me anymore. It is really a great relief,” Alaphilippe said after the finish, having been hampered by injury so far this year, as well as a 2022-campaign derailed by his Liège-Bastogne-Liège crash. On top of that, the two-time world champion has had to deal with team boss Patrick Lefevere questioning the rider’s contract after struggling for results last year under the circumstances.
“The plan was also to sprint today,” Alaphilippe continued. “But that could have been done with another rider of the team. However, as the miles passed, everyone was à bloc. In the end, I was able to make the right effort at the right time. I am really happy with this stage victory. I can race around with a relaxed feeling for the next few days. I am already satisfied with what I have achieved.”
And with this victory comes the confidence the Frenchman would have needed heading into his marquee race of every year – the Tour de France. Stages 1 and 2 of the upcoming French Grand Tour are what once would have been described as ‘Alaphilippe days’. With this comeback victory, a wave of both hands that seemed to say “chill, everyone,” maybe that moniker will live on for at least another year.
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