SAN JUAN, Argentina (VN) — Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) is putting together the complete package in the Vuelta a San Juan this week, where he has already won two stages and leads the overall. The “maturity and confidence” gained will count later in the year at the classics and the Tour de France.
The Frenchman won the Punta Negra uphill finish and followed it with a strong time trial to take the race lead. He heads toward the coming mountain stage on Friday in western Argentina, known for its Malbec red wine, with the race leader’s blue jersey.
“He’s starting to have maturity and confidence in himself,” Davide Bramati, team sport director, told VeloNews.
“I saw something special [in the time trial]. The wind changed in the last 30 minutes. He did the last 6km on the way back, never less than 62 or 63K an hour. I’m happy for the victory and the motivation of the team.
“For sure [the maturity and confidence help] when the season begins. The guys are motivated to start in Europe.”
Deceuninck-Quick-Step won 73 times last year, far more than any other team. Alaphilippe contributed to that with his win in the Flèche Wallonne classic, two stage wins in the Tour de France plus the king of the mountains jersey, and the Clásica San Sebastián.
“Everyone remembered what he did in the Tour de France. I think that also because that he’s French, it was a special year for him,” Bramati said.
“For sure, the wins gave him and the team motivation. Last year, we began with the same mentality in Colombia when he won a stage. This year, we decided on Argentina, it’s a good country and the race is good. He won again. That’s nice for him and the team, and Deceuninck, the new sponsor.”
The Frenchman, who packs a similar punch to his Belgian teammate Philippe Gilbert, will target Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, and Milano-Sanremo early on. He already came close in Sanremo, in 2017, placing third in a tight three-up sprint with Michal Kwiatkowski the winner and Peter Sagan in second.
“It will be important that we are coming back from South America in the middle of February with good condition,” Bramati added.
“He already podiumed in Sanremo, everyone remembers that sprint with Sagan and Kwiatkowski. Now he has more experience and more confidence in himself. And everyone remembers Flèche Wallonne and what he did for [eventual winner] Jungels in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, so for sure those will also be his goals.”
The Vuelta a San Juan stops for a rest day Thursday. On Friday, it climbs the 14.4 kilometers to Alto Colorado at 2,565 meters above sea level. The slow and steady climb in the Andes lacks steep ramps and should allow Alaphilippe a chance of keeping the leader’s blue jersey.
“I always feel good in South America, I took my first win of the year in Colombia last year, I’m also happy to take the win here,” said Alaphilippe
“I came here really motivated after my successful last year. My form is really good.”