Alaphilippe in a good position before summit finish
Julian Alaphilippe began his day by being named a Reserve Colonel in the French Army in a special ceremony organised for him in Arles and concluded it by inching closer to the Tour de la Provence lead, on the back of a spectacular collective effort of his Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl teammates.
Not only that the Wolfpack was among the most active squads during Saturday’s 180.6km stage, clawing back the breakaway and working tirelessly for the World Champion, they also constantly upped the pace on the climbs and whittled down the peloton with 30 kilometers remaining, putting many riders on the limit. One by one, the escapees were reeled in, the last of these being hauled back six kilometers from the line thanks to a mammoth effort of Louis Vervaeke.
A big turn of pace from Ilan Van Wilder at four kilometers to go stretched the field and almost caused a split, and the frantic pace continued on the 2km drag to the line, thanks to Dries Devenyns, who shut down a late attack before guiding Alaphilippe to the front just as the battle for victory kicked off. The rainbow jersey hit out with 200 meters to go and took second behind Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) – his first podium of the season – on the way nabbing more bonifications that helped him reduce the gap to the overall leader of the Tour de la Provence to a mere two seconds.
“I did the best I could in the sprint, which was fast and nervous. Before that, on the last classified climb, I had already put in a brutal effort, so after that I was just happy to be well placed in the last kilometers, which I did thanks to the great work of my teammates. I am satisfied with this result, as I knew Bryan was faster, and I’m already looking forward to Sunday’s stage. The legs will do the talking on the climb, and I just want to give my maximum there, have fun, bring some more joy to the fans and see what happens”, said Julian – who continues to lead the points classification – before the race’s sole mountain top finish.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images