A year after thrilling his home nation for a fortnight on last year’s Tour de France, Julian Alaphilippe produced an almost carbon-copy capture of a stage win Sunday to claim the overall leader’s yellow jersey again.
On the day’s final climb Alaphilippe launched a blistering attack to clinch bonus seconds at the summit before a white-knuckle descent to the finish line in Nice where the second stage victory also gave him bonus seconds.
Delirious with joy at his repeat performance former soldier Alaphilippe began punching towards the sky, as he turned to see just how close behind him the onrushing peloton was to overtaking his escape trio on the Promenade des Anglais finish line.
The set-up of the second stage was eerily close to how Alaphilippe stole away from the peloton last year on day three to Epernay and eventually led the Tour for 14 days before wilting on the penultimate stage to finish fifth overall.
No Frenchman has won the Tour de France since 1985.
“I really wanted to try something and I had nothing to lose,” said Deceuninck-Quick Step’s leader.
“It really hurt me, I was digging deep at the end there,” said Alaphilippe, whose tongue was hanging from his mouth as he pushed hard on the final straight.
“It’s a great pride and responsibility and I will defend this honour day by day, I won’t be giving it up tomorrow that’s for sure,” he promised.
“I’m happy now,” he concluded when stepping from the podium.
Jumbo-Visma may however be furious at the circumstances accompanying the win.
Shortly after Alaphilippe’s attack Team Ineos’ Michal Kwiatkowski somehow backed into Jumbo co-captain Tom Dumoulin and knocked him to the floor.
The Dutch outfit had been leading the head of the peloton all day, but suddenly they had to slow down and abandon their pursuit of Alaphilippe, who had the Swiss Marc Hirschi and British rider Adam Yates for company on the dash to the line.