There were tears when Julian Alaphilippe scooped the Tour de France’s yellow jersey in Nice last month. There were tears again this weekend when the flamboyant Frenchman took the rainbow jersey of world champion in Imola.
After a rollercoaster year that has seen the tragic passing of his father Jo, a strict national lockdown, and the controversial loss of his Tour de France lead due to a time penalty, Alaphilippe bounced back Sunday with an unstoppable world title-taking attack in the Italian hills.
“This is my greatest victory, a win which I promised to my father I will get one day,” Alaphilippe said Sunday. “When I arrived alone at the finish, I couldn’t believe that my dream came true. The coveted rainbow jersey is the most beautiful one in cycling and to know that I will wear it for twelve months gives me huge pride.”
After crossing the line with a roar of emotion, Alaphilippe duly collapsed against the barriers in exhausted, emotional tears. The sentiment continued to flow as the 28-year-old was congratulated by colleagues from both his national and professional teams.
One of those that met Alaphilippe in the moments after his solo victory was his Deceuninck-Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere.
“He reacted very emotionally – he couldn’t stop crying,” Lefevere told Sporza. “‘Are you proud of me?’ he kept asking. Of course, I am. I don’t think I’ve seen as many men crying as today, because all my staff was here.”
Alaphilippe has a palmarès boasting monument victories, yellow jerseys, and grand tour stages. Nonetheless, after two recent world championship disappointments, the Quick-Step star described his world title Sunday as “the summit, the race that I dreamed of the most.”
“In life, everyone has difficult times,” Alaphilippe said after the race. “You have to find the strength to get up and go on after you take blows. I’ve always had that strength in me to continue, and that helped me today. On days like today, I think of the people close to me, the work of my team, the loss of my father. This has been a strange year.”
Alaphilippe will ride out the rest of this unprecedented season and through 2021 in his new rainbow jersey.
While the new world champion is planning a run at both the Ardennes classics and Tour of Flanders in the next month, Alaphilippe may postpone his first outing in the rainbow jersey. Despite being slated to defend his title at Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday, Alaphilippe yesterday told French radio station RMC that he may need more time to regather himself.
“I don’t think I’ll be riding the Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday,” Alaphilippe said. “It comes just a little too soon and I speak in terms of both physical and emotional recovery. It may not be the best choice. ”