Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck–Quick-Step) is back in Colombia, to jump-start his season. Last year, he won stage 5, in La Union and also took home the points jersey, to begin a near-perfect season which included wins at both Milan San Remo and La Flèche Wallonne, and 14 days in yellow, at the Tour de France.
“For sure it was a really special season for me, really successful,” Alaphilippe said, the day before racing got underway in Colombia. “I’m happy to have been able to do what I achieved, but that has changed nothing. I can be more relaxed, to take the start with less stress — but I’m still hungry for victories.”
The Tour of Colombia has become a major attraction in the early season for many teams looking for that magic combination of racing efforts at altitude, in warm weather. It has become the preferred preparation for riders who have been most successful later in the season.
“It is one of the biggest reasons why we are here,” Alaphilippe said. “It’s always successful. We have a great team here to try to win with Alvaro [Hodeg] for the sprint, and we will see what we can do with Bob Jungels. The main goal is to work for fitness and to come back [to Europe] better.”
Alaphilippe can power through the Classics, and bring fireworks on the mountain stages in July. He is a showman, and loves to perform for his audience. His heroics at the 2019 Tour had French cycling fans dreaming of breaking the 34-year drought since a countryman wore yellow in Paris.
His focus is not on winning the Tour, or even besting his number of wins last season, but Alaphilippe remains motivated to try for another successful year. For now, he is happy to be in Boyacá, in order to build his fitness for the Classics that are fast approaching. He will skip defending his title at Milan San Remo, with his eye on other races.
“I have a lot of goals, starting with Paris-Nice and through to Leige-Bastogne-Leige – it will be a big goal for me during this period,” he said. “After that, I will have some rest and then it will be the national championships, Tour de France, and then the Olympic Games. It will be nice to see how I can manage my shape.”
Last week, Alaphilippe abandoned San Juan. In 2019, the Frenchman won a stage, and finished second overall.
“I think I have a possibilities to start better here,” he said. “I’m going to stay motivated because I worked very hard in the winter.”