A far cry from the attention of cycling fans and media, the Tour de Wallonie is the next stop on the comeback trail of world champion Julian Alaphilippe.
The 2.Pro starts Saturday with an opener finishing on the Mur de Huy, a happy hunting ground for the Frenchman, who won three editions of La Flèche Wallonne there.
The five-stage event finishes on July 27. It is Alaphilippe’s first race since the French national championship road race four weeks ago. He has since been on an altitude training camp at Livigno.
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Alaphilippe continues to build his condition after the serious injuries he sustained in a crash at Liège-Bastogne-Liège at the end of April 2022. A start at the Vuelta a España is a possibility as he looks towards defending his rainbow jersey at the world championships in Australia.
He will be accompanied by Davide Ballerini, Tim Declercq, Dries Devenyns, Iljo Keisse, Stijn Steels and Ilan Van Wilder at the Belgian race.
“We are happy to have Julian here, as he’ll ease back into competition and prepare the second part of the season. He can fight for a stage win, as he will have support from many strong and motivated guys,” Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl sport director Wilfried Peeters said in a team press release.
“Concerning the general classification, we’ll see how far he can get there, but our main goal here is to get a victory.”
Other leading riders competing at the Tour de Wallonie include Biniam Ghirmay (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert-Matériaux), Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) and Guillaume Martin (Cofidis).