ANS, Belgium (AFP) — French revelation Julian Alaphilippe admitted he was frustrated at missing out on a prestigious victory at Liege-Bastogne-Liege but claimed he was happy with his support role for world champion Michal Kwiatkowski.
The 22-year-old was beaten only by Alejandro Valverde in sprint finishes at Liege on Sunday and four days before that at Fleche-Wallonne after Kwiatkowski had cracked in the final kilometers.
And having already finished seventh at Amstel Gold a week before Liege, where 25-year-old Kwiatkowski triumphed, Alaphilippe was arguably his Etixx-Quick-Step team’s star performer in the Ardennes.
But the humble rider refused to demand an improved status within the team, saying he will bide his time for the chance to lead.
“I assure you my status hasn’t changed, I’ll keep working for my team,” insisted Alaphilippe.
“I was very happy to finish second at Fleche but Kwiatkowski was the leader [at Liege], he’d prepared for that.
“It’s the situation that changed at the end and you have to adapt.
“Maybe I’ll be leader someday but for the moment I do what team asks me to do, until that changes.”
Despite riding both Fleche and Liege for the first time, Alaphilippe proved inexperience was no barrier, but he admitted it was still frustrating to come so close at both without winning.
“I don’t know if you can say I’m a perfectionist but I’m someone who likes to win every race I’m in,” he said.
“When I start a race, I want to win it, so I can’t be happy with second and when you get so close, it’s frustrating.”
But the youngster admitted there was little he could do to deny an on-form Valverde.
“Yes, I could have won but it’s still satisfying to come second in your first Liege-Bastogne-Liege,” he said, somewhat contradicting himself.
“I was a bit behind in the last kilometer. Everyone was looking at Alejandro Valverde, he was the big favorite.
“We knew he was the strongest, at 400m to go he chased down the escapee.
“There was a slight gap and I put in a big effort to close it before the last bend.
“Everyone was a bit tired there, I was blocked a bit by Rui Costa but that didn’t impede me much.
“Valverde was too strong.”
Nonetheless, Alaphilippe believes his time will come.
“I’m happy with my form, these are courses I trained for. I did everything to arrive in form.
“I know that hard work pays off, it’s satisfying to get results like this in big races.
“In the future it doesn’t change much for me, but I’m calm in my ability to progress. I’m not getting worked up, I’m happy with the way things are going and I’m in a good team.”