First, storms, crashes, and agony. And then the Tour de France gives you this—a magnificent day of racing in the hills of the Côte d’Azur, finished off by a victory from one of the sport’s most popular champions. In many ways, today felt much more like the first day of the Tour de France and yesterday’s surrealistic stage, already like something from the past.
On tap were two climbs — the Col de la Colmiane and the Col de Turini — that are frequent guests in Paris-Nice. The Turini in particular is simply spectacular with its ever-winding road up the summit, and seemingly non-stop descent.
Crowds were thin as a result of restrictions imposed by the race organizers, forbidding vehicles on the climbs. But the lack of crowds did not get in the way of the views.
But really everybody knew that the race would be won or lost once the peloton returned to Nice and hit the mythic Col d’Eze not once, but twice. On paper, the short, punchy climb was perfect for Julian Alaphilippe, and he simply seized the day, attacking on the final ascent and employing his descending skills as he raced towards Nice, with Marc Hirschi and Adam Yates in tow.
And when he sprinted to victory, he also sprinted back into the yellow jersey, giving us just a hint of the magic he produced just last year when he wore the yellow jersey for 14 days. How long he will carry the jersey this year is anyone’s bet. But with Alaphilippe back in yellow, it feels like the Tour has truly begun.