Culture

Agony and ecstasy award: Julian Alaphilippe

The highest highs and the lowest lows.

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While we always admire the winners, we often sympathize more with the losers. Julian Alaphilippe gave us both emotions in 2020.

Alaphilippe won stage 2 of the Tour de France and appeared primed to hold the yellow jersey for more than a week, only to lose it due to an illegal feed three stages later. He then stunned the world by powering away on the final climb at the world championships in Italy to claim the rainbow stripes.

It was a moment of pure brilliance, only to be followed by two devastating defeats, first at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and the second at the Tour of Flanders.

The dream victory was in Alaphilippe’s grasp at Liège when he made the final breakaway as the race returned to the finish. And victory appeared to be his as he raced toward the line and raised his hands in victory. That’s when Primož Roglič threw his bike across the line just as Alaphilippe raised his arms — an opportunity botched by an amateur error.

And finally, there was the epic crash at Flanders. Breaking away with Wout van Aert and Matthieu van der Poel in his Flanders debut, Alaphilippe’s season came to a sudden end when he crashed into the back of a race motorcycle just 34 kilometers from the finish. Could he have won? We’ll never know.

While Alaphilippe’s result is uncertain, his ability to race with excitement and panache is guaranteed.