Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) surprised his doubters to win Friday’s 13th stage of the Tour de France, a 27.2 kilometer time trial in Pau.
Known more for his punchy accelerations on steep climbs, Alaphilippe blazed a impressive individual time trial to defeat defending champion Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos) by 14 seconds.
The course has several twists and turns, as well as two climbs: the Côte de Gelos (1.1km at 7.8 percent) and Côte d’Esquillot (1km at 7.2 percent). Alaphilippe said that the hilly terrain gave him an advantage.
“On this parcourse it was really perfect for me. The first part I went full gas and I just wanted to see what I could do in the second [half],” Alaphilippe said. “In my ear I hear from my sport director, he said I had the best time.”
Belgian Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) finished third, 35 seconds in arrears, with Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First) and Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) rounding out the top-five.
With his victory, Alaphilippe padded his lead in the Tour de France overall, and now leads Thomas by 1:26. Behind, the individual time trial reshuffled the GC contenders. Egan Bernal slipped from third to fifth place overall, 2:52 down. Steven Kruijswijk (Lotto-Jumbo) advanced from fourth to third. Uran took the biggest step forward, moving up from 12th to 8th place overall, 3:54 down.
Whether Alaphilippe can defend the jersey in the high mountains now becomes the most pressing question of this year’s Tour de France. Alaphilippe has conceded that he lacks the ability of Thomas, Bernal, and the race’s other top grand tour riders in the high mountains.
After his win Alaphilippe again downplayed his chances of holding his lead in the Pyrenees.
“OK, we don’t have the team to win the Tour de France—we don’t have a lot of climbers on Deceuninck-Quick Step,” Alaphilippe said. “But we ride really aggressively and we try to win and I’m just so happy with what happened now.”
Alaphilippe’s victory came after a day of Decuninck-Quick Step dominance on the twisting course. The Belgian team’s powerful Danish domestique Kasper Asgreen set an early fast time of 35:52.52, and sat in the hot seat for much of the day. Asgreen was finally knocked off his perch by De Gendt, whose 35:36.12 set the new fastest time.
De Gendt dodged multiple bullets as the GC riders all came and went without toppling him from the top of the leader board. Porte was close, and then Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) also fell just short with 35:49.28, before Uran came within less than a second of the best time.
Eventually it was Thomas who set a new fast mark of 35:36.12, however the Welshman’s success was overshadowed in the moment by reports that Alaphilippe was a full seven seconds ahead at the first two time checks. Alaphilippe built on his gap in the course’s flat back half, crossing the line with the fastest time of the day.
Announcers revealed a historical wrinkle of Alaphilippe’s victory: he is the first Frenchman to win a Tour de France stage while wearing the yellow jersey since Laurent Fignon did in 1989. And Alaphilippe won the stage on the 100-year anniversary of the first awarding of the yellow jersey at the Tour de France.
“To be in yellow is already amazing,” Alaphilipp said. “It’s something for sure I will never forget. And I’m proud to put my name on the story of my sport.”