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Julian Alaphilippe: ‘Our day had already been a success’

Unsure of his condition coming into the Tour de la Provence, world champion Julian Alaphilippe is just off the lead at halfway.

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LES SAINTES-MARIES-DE-LA-MER, France (VN) – Two days into his 2022 season, world road race champion Julian Alaphilippe described himself as “very pleased” with his form having moved up to second place overall on the GC, just four seconds behind race leader Filippo Ganna.

Looking a little incongruous in the gold jersey as the points competition leader in Provence rather than his rainbow jersey, Alaphilippe said the first stage had panned out as had been widely expected given the strong northerly wind that was blasting across the flat marshlands of the Camargue.

Also read: Elia Viviani gives Ineos Grenadiers two in a row at Tour de la Provence

“Everyone was expecting a nervous and very fast day, and that was the case. We knew we had to be well represented at the front, and I’m very pleased from a personal point of view, the legs were good,” said the Frenchman, who finished third on the stage behind winner Ineos Grenadiers’ Elia Viviani and Israel-Premier Tech’s Sep Vanmarcke.

“I wanted to do the sprint coming into it but I could see that it was complicated with Elia being there,” the QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl rider continued. “But I didn’t want to take too many risks. Our day had already been a success more or less. It’s been a good start.”

The fatiguing effect of fast racing in very windy conditions was etched on Alaphilippe’s face, and he acknowledged it had been a tough test.

“I don’t really feel like I do after finishing a classic, but I do feel like I would do after a very high-speed day, and that was the case for everyone. But I’m happy with the way things are going in what’s my first race back,” he said.

Surprised to finish in the top 10 in the prologue time trial, in which he was sixth, and further boosted by a 13-second gain on Ganna during the first stage thanks to the bonuses he earned, Alaphilippe will start the final two stages just four seconds down on the Italian in second place on GC. Saturday’s stage rolls through the heart of Provence to Manosque, where the finish rises steadily, while Sunday’s “queen” stage climbs to the 1,570-meter summit of the Montagne de Lure.

“On paper, tomorrow’s [Saturday] stage is harder than last year’s equivalent into Manosque,” said the Frenchman. “We’ll see how the day unfolds. Lots of riders have lost quite a bit of time today and that could open the door to a breakaway staying clear. I said before the race that we would look for opportunities. There are still two very good ones left.”