Julian Alaphilippe rose like a firework and faded just as fast, hitting podium peaks in the Ardennes and California before disappearing into obscurity in the second half of the season. Quiet in Canada; invisible at worlds. Now we know why.
The young Frenchman has suffered from mononucleosis for weeks, he revealed in a blog on Etixx-Quick-Step’s website Monday. The virus causes fatigue, often manifesting with symptoms akin to a low-level cold, and so Alaphilippe simply rode through the malaise. It was only after he returned to France from Richmond that a formal diagnosis was made.
“For me, it was a mixed feeling. In one way I was upset, because I couldn’t finish the season the way I wanted, especially with worlds on a road course I really liked,” he said. “But, on the other hand, I was relieved. I finally had an answer for why my body was not at the level I expected. It was because of an illness, not because I did something wrong in training or recovery.”
Alaphilippe stormed onto international racing consciousness with a pair of second-place finishes at La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He backed up those rides with a stage win on Mt. Baldy at the Amgen Tour of California, earning him second overall — all before his 23rd birthday.
“Amgen Tour of California was like icing on the cake. After a lot of places in big races, it was a relief to finally raise my hands as a victor. It was fantastic,” he said. “The first part of this season was something great and something I will carry with me through my career.”
Following a break from racing, Alaphilippe returned at Eneco Tour, but never saw the his late spring form return. He was 46th and 60th at the Grand Prix de Montreal and Quebec, and a DNF in Richmond.
He felt off, but trudged on. “When you are young, you think it is simply a matter of fatigue and not fully recovering. I didn’t really think about it. I tried to do my job,” he said. His form at worlds was the last straw, and led to doctors visits when he returned to France.
Now it’s time for rest, the only way to ditch mono. Alaphilippe will take a break, then begin building for another run at the Ardennes — this time with Etixx’ new signing Dan Martin at his side.
“I think I can learn a lot from him and can start the 2016 season on the right path,” he said.