Alaphilippe takes home Provence points jersey
Julian Alaphilippe produced another cracking effort, this time on the first big summit of the season, and concluded the Tour de la Provence in second overall – a strong start to the season for the World Champion, who never finished lower than seventh in the four days of the event.
Montagne de Lure (14.6km, 6.4%), a steady climb with double-digit gradients towards the top that had previously featured in Paris-Nice, awaited the peloton on the final stage of the competition, and the Wolfpack was again up for the challenge when things became serious. Dries Devenyns shepherded Alaphilippe in the first kilometers of the ascent, before Louis Vervaeke took over the reins at the front and pushed a tempo that further thinned out an already depleted bunch.
When Nairo Quintana launched an attack with 4.4 kilometers to go, Julian was the only one able to follow him. The points jersey wearer even did some pulls that ensured the duo a solid lead over the chasers, but eventually was distanced when the gradient stiffened, three kilometers from the top. Joined by a small group that contained Ilan Van Wilder, Alaphilippe tried as much as possible to reduce the gap to the leader, even though he knew that his chances of winning the overall title were slipping away.
Eventually, he rolled over the line in seventh place, and thanks to an enormous effort and the help of Ilan, he retained his place on the podium and concluded runner-up at the Tour de la Provence for the second consecutive year. In addition to that, the 29-year-old claimed the points jersey, which last year was won by another member of the Wolfpack, Davide Ballerini.
“I think I made a small mistake when I tried to follow Quintana. In hindsight, maybe it would have been better to ride my own tempo and wait some more time before making a move, because in the last kilometers I exploded. Nevertheless, I am still happy, because I tested myself and had fun. I am satisfied with this week and with my first race of the season. Now I will take some time to recover before lining up for Ardèche and Drôme two weeks from now, where I hope to have some good outings as well”, explained Julian after his first race of the year.
Alaphilippe was joined in the top 10 overall by Ilan Van Wilder (6th) and Louis Vervaeke (10th), who both impressed in their first race with the squad, helping Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl win the best team classification at La Provence.
“The team did a great job today. Dries, Pieter and Louis protected us the entire stage, which allowed us to start the final climb as fresh as possible. Quintana was the strongest out there, so there was nothing to be done, but I did my best and in the last kilometer I raced full gas to reduce the gap. We did everything we could do and we can be content with our effort. I am happy with the week and with how things went in my first race with the Wolfpack”, said Ilan.
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