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Julian Alaphilippe on UCI Road World Championships: ‘I am not 100 percent’

Two-time defending champion ready to race to help French teammates defend the stripes: 'I'd be even happier if one of my colleagues wins.'

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If Julian Alaphilippe didn’t believe in the “rainbow jersey curse,” there was plenty of drama in 2022 to change the two-time world champion’s mind.

The French crashed heavily three times, missed the Tour de France, and won only twice all season in his second year in the cherished stripes.

Now back in action just in time for a title defense, Alaphilippe is hoping to erase a frustrating season with a run at a rare treble in the UCI Road World Championships elite men’s race Sunday.

“I’m motivated, relaxed, but perhaps not in the best of condition, that is for sure,” Alaphilippe said in a press conference. “The last time I was in a race, I was injured. I am definitely not 100 percent, and I am not going to arrive with the same guarantees as the past two worlds.”

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Alaphilippe is the first to admit he might not have the same worlds-winning legs he’s packed the past two editions, and was quick to share the opportunities with his teammates.

“I am one of the leaders but I am not the only leader and that suits me very well. Everyone knows my form, Alaphilippe said in a press conference. “There are riders from the French team who have performed better than me in recent weeks and to whom the race corresponds very well, too.

“I will be very happy to give the max for them. It is by playing on the collective that we will go far.”

Others will see their chances in Wollongong

Alaphilippe speaks to the media in Australia. (Photo: WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

Alaphilippe’s “cursed” season began with a spectacular crash during Strade Bianche, when he catapulted over his bike as strong winds blasted the white roads of Tuscany.

Things were on the mend when he bounced back to win a stage at Itzulia Basque Country, but another more serious crash at Liège-Bastogne-Liège when he suffered two broken ribs, a fractured shoulder blade, and a collapsed lung after crashing into a tree at La Doyenne.

Injuries kept him out of the Tour, only to crash again during stage 11 at the Vuelta a España that left him with a dislocated shoulder.

Call it a curse or bad luck, the endless string of crashes and injuries obviously kept Alaphilippe from returning to his trademark explosive best.

With that in mind, French national coach Thomas Voeckler is bringing a mixed squad to Wollongong that also includes Christophe Laporte, Romain Bardet, and the late-hour addition of Benoît Cosnefroy.

“We are coming for a result and it will be the icing on the cake if we keep the jersey,” Alaphilippe said. “I would be really happy to relive what we have experienced for the past two years. And I think I’d be even happier if one of my colleagues wins.

“I don’t feel any pressure,” he continued. “Where I had a bit of pressure was in Imola (at the 2020 Worlds). Last year I was motivated and I raced to win but I was ready to lose, too. I had zero pressure and I have even less here, because I know how the last few weeks have been for me.”