World Champion Julian Alaphilippe named most combative rider of the Tour de l’Ain.
Temperatures rising above 30 degrees Celsius, four classified climbs, over 3200 vertical meters and an uphill finish – the last stage of the Tour de l’Ain was stacked with difficulties, but these didn’t stop Julian Alaphilippe from sailing away in the opening kilometers and establishing a two-minute margin together with two other riders by the time they arrived at the bottom of the first ascent.
The trio continued at a high pace and managed to stretch their advantage to four minutes, a gap that forced the peloton to change the gear and drive a big tempo behind the leading group, from where Antonio Pedrero (Movistar) attacked with 30 kilometers to go and opened what in the end proved to be a decisive margin.
Alaphilippe dropped out from the chasing group on the leg-sapping Col de Menthières to help Mauri Vansevenant in the yellow jersey group, which counted only eleven riders. What was left of the peloton continued to shed riders, and towards the top several of them lost contact, including Mauri, who cramped on the steep gradient. But staying true to his nature and showing a fantastic fighting spirit, the Belgian continued to push on both the descent and the final climb to Lélex Monts-Jura.
This tenacity and determination netted Mauri eighth place in the overall classification, making it for the second time this season that the 23-year-old finished in the top 10 at a stage race, after Vuelta a Andalucia, in February: “I felt quite good today, but then at the end I came a bit short when it came to crunch time. I think everyone was on the limit, I had cramps, so I had to let go. I felt better again a bit after that, but it was difficult to come back, although I gave my best all the way until the finish. The form is good, as evidenced by this top 10, but I can still improve a bit as now I miss that last bit to fight in the front.”
After animating every stage of the three-day race – where he returned for the first time in eight years – not missing any opportunity to showcase his panache and beautiful rainbow jersey, Julian Alaphilippe made a well-deserved visit to the podium after the final stage, as he was named the most combative rider of the Tour de l’Ain – making it the 12th time this year that Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl won a stage race secondary classification.
Photo credit: ©Bas Czerwinski / Getty Images