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Julian Alaphilippe punches clear to take solo victory at world championships road race

Frenchman goes solo with 12km to go, holding off a stellar chase group to take his nation's first rainbow jersey since 1997.

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Julian Alaphilippe made his move with 12 kilometers to go to take the road world championships title Sunday, the first for his nation in 23 years.

Alaphilippe punched clear on the steepest slopes of the final climb of the day to hold off a stellar chase group of five, taking the victory by over 20 seconds. The Frenchman’s victory rewarded the hard work of his team, who had piled on the pressure through the final three laps of the nine-loop circuit in Imola.

“It’s really hard for me to say something at this moment,” Alaphilippe said moments after his victory. “I want to say thank you to all my teammates who really believed in me today. Everybody did a great job.”

“It was always a dream for me in my career,” he continued as tears began to well. “Already sometimes I was so close and was never on the podium. And now, I came here with a lot of ambition and pfftt.. it’s just a dream day for me.”

Having gone into the Innsbruck worlds in 2018 as one of the favorites and coming away disappointed with eighth place, Alaphilippe’s rainbow jersey rounds out an illustrious palmarès that includes wins at Milano-Sanremo, Strade Bianche, twice at Fleche Wallone, and five stage victories at the Tour de France.

Having seen his yellow jersey snatched away from him at this year’s Tour de France and been pipped to a second Sanremo title by Wout van Aert this August, Alaphilippe bounced back to take a career-defining victory Sunday.

“I want to thank my team for all the effort they put in, to [national coach] Thomas Voeckler for the confidence he showed in me, and my family, friends, and my partner,” he said. “This is a dream for my career.”

Behind Alaphilippe, Wout van Aert (Belgium) took the sprint for second, with Marc Hirschi (Switzerland) edging out Michał Kwiatkowski (Poland) for third.

The group behind Alaphilippe malfunctioned in the efforts to chase.

Alaphilippe’s attack over the steep Gallisterna climb had drawn out the strongest selection, with van Aert, Hirschi, Kwiatkowski, Primož Roglič (Slovenia) and Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark) forming the chase group behind. However, with the group fearing setting up van Aert for a sprint finish, the five failed to work together effectively, allowing Alaphilippe to ride uncontested as he made his madcap dash toward victory on the Imola race circuit.

“It was a perfect race from start to finish, we respected perfectly what we said at the briefing,” said Alaphilippe’s teammate Guillaume Martin. “We had planned to harden the race in the final two or three laps and then to follow, to accompany the blows.”

It took until the third-last lap of the 258-kilometer race for the action to spark into life as the French team began to rev its motor on behalf of Alaphilippe. The blue squad piled on the pressure over the steep summit of the Gallisterna climb as they began to shed riders out of the back of the bunch.

The Belgian team was next to start the pummelling, with all eight of its riders massing on the front at the start of the penultimate lap with Jasper Stuyven and Pieter Serry dictating the pace.

Despite the strength in numbers of van Aert and his Belgian team, Tour champ Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia) was given the room to make the first meaningful attack of the race, making a move on the penultimate climb of the Gallisterna with 42km remaining while teammate Roglič sat back in the bunch. The superstar 22-year-old squeezed an advantage of 25 seconds as the Belgians continued to lead the chase as the Italian, French and Spanish teams sat close behind.

Pogačar was inevitably caught toward the start of the final lap as the bunch motored into the first of the two climbs on the Italian circuit. With the reigning yellow jersey caught, attacks began rolling with Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands), Damiano Caruso (Italy), Rigoberto Urán (Colombia), and Mikel Landa (Spain) among those making accelerations from the front.

The French team, still present in numbers toward the front, took responsibility for chasing down the attacks and the much-diminished front group all came back together again in the short flat section before the final ascent of the Gallisterna. Opportunistic skirmishes continued to fly, with Guillaume Martin (France) and a handful of others rolling the dice, though the Belgian team now policed the moves, with Tiesj Benoot and Greg van Avermaet repeatedly shutting down threats.

It was on the final climb of the 2.7-kilometer Gallisterna where the race was made. Swissman Hirschi was first to attack, followed by Van Aert, Fuglsang, Kwiatkowski, Alaphilippe, Roglič, Max Schachmann (Germany), and home-hope Vincenzo Nibali.

As the climb reached its fiercest 15 percent slopes, Alaphilippe launched a trademark out of the saddle attack, splintering the small lead group, with Fuglsang, Kwiatkowski, Roglic, Hirschi, and van Aert trailing a few seconds behind.

The Deceuninck-Quick-Step star kept piling on over the rolling crest of the hill as the chasers behind looked at each other and failed to commit to closing down the flying Frenchman.

Alaphilippe went onto the final stretch of the Imola circuit alone as he dashed toward victory.

With van Aert sensing his opportunity was starting to edge away from him, the brawny Belgian began putting vigor into the chase, however, with less than 10km to go, Alaphilippe continued to hold a gap of 15-20 seconds and maintained it through to the final stretch of the race on the Imola motor track.

The Frenchman came to the line solo, to take the first French title since Laurent Brochard won in 1997.

24 seconds later, van Aert won the sprint for second having led out the small bunch kick, and Hirschi shaded past Kwiatkowski to nab second and third place, respectively.

It was a day of perfect preparation for the French.

“When you have a precise plan, it’s easy to do it on a blackboard in the bus but it is more difficult to do it implement. We saw a tight-knit team all day,” Frenchman Martin said after the race. “I heard these weeks following the Tour de France that the French were in withdrawal from other nations – today we responded on the ground.”

World Championships ME - Road Race Results

1ALAPHILIPPE JulianFrance6:38:34
2VAN AERT WoutBelgium0:24
3HIRSCHI MarcSwitzerland0:24
4KWIATKOWSKI MichałPoland0:24
5FUGLSANG JakobDenmark0:24
6ROGLIČ PrimožSlovenia0:24
7MATTHEWS MichaelAustralia0:53
8VALVERDE AlejandroSpain0:53
9SCHACHMANN MaximilianGermany0:53
10CARUSO DamianoItaly0:53
11VALGREN MichaelDenmark0:53
12WOODS MichaelCanada0:53
13MARTIN GuillaumeFrance0:53
14DUMOULIN TomNetherlands0:53
15NIBALI VincenzoItaly0:57
16LANDA MikelSpain0:57
17GESCHKE SimonGermany1:34
18BETTIOL AlbertoItaly1:34
19MOLARD RudyFrance1:34
20BILBAO PelloSpain1:34
21VAN AVERMAET GregBelgium1:34
22CARAPAZ RichardEcuador1:34
23MASNADA FaustoItaly1:34
24URÁN RigobertoColombia1:34
25PORTE RichieAustralia1:34
26COSTA RuiPortugal2:03
27POLANC JanSlovenia2:03
28HERRADA JesúsSpain2:03
29SKUJIŅŠ TomsLatvia3:40
30BENOOT TiesjBelgium3:44
31MARTÍNEZ Daniel FelipeColombia3:44
32CHAVES EstebanColombia3:44
33POGAČAR TadejSlovenia3:44
34MADOUAS ValentinFrance5:15
35VAN BAARLE DylanNetherlands5:48
36HOELGAARD MarkusNorway5:54
37ELISSONDE KennyFrance8:30
38OLIVEIRA NelsonPortugal8:49
39WELLENS TimBelgium9:24
40VLIEGEN LoïcBelgium9:24
41LÓPEZ Miguel ÁngelColombia9:24
42PIDCOCK ThomasGreat Britain9:24
43VISCONTI GiovanniItaly10:32
44CLARKE SimonAustralia10:32
45OOMEN SamNetherlands10:32
46GASPAROTTO EnricoSwitzerland10:32
47ULISSI DiegoItaly10:32
48HIGUITA SergioColombia10:32
49PRONSKIY VadimKazakhstan10:32
50HENAO SergioColombia10:32
51ROCHE NicolasIreland10:32
52SÁNCHEZ Luis LeónSpain10:32
53KUSS SeppUnited States12:35
54SCHÖNBERGER SebastianAustria15:25
55ZIMMERMANN GeorgGermany15:25
56LEKNESSUND AndreasNorway15:27
57BAGIOLI AndreaItaly15:27
58NEILANDS KristsLatvia16:20
59HIRT JanCzech Republic19:42
60GREGAARD JonasDenmark19:42
61HOULE HugoCanada19:42
62STRAKHOV DmitryRussia20:13
63DENZ NicoGermany21:59
64OTRUBA JakubCzech Republic21:59
65PEDERSEN CasperDenmark21:59
66MARTENS PaulGermany21:59
67KUDUS MerhawiEritrea21:59
68TUSVELD MartijnNetherlands21:59
69GHEBREIGZABHIER AmanuelEritrea21:59
70OWSIAN ŁukaszPoland21:59
71ŤOUPALÍK AdamCzech Republic21:59
72PATERSKI MaciejPoland21:59
73HAGEN Carl FredrikNorway21:59
74NATAROV YuriyKazakhstan21:59
75CHERNETSKI SergeiRussia21:59
76VALTER AttilaHungary21:59
77JUUL-JENSEN ChristopherDenmark21:59
78MEINTJES LouisSouth Africa21:59
79WEENING PieterNetherlands21:59
80CAICEDO Jonathan KleverEcuador21:59
81SHAW JamesGreat Britain21:59
82ROVNY IvanRussia21:59
83GOŁAŚ MichałPoland21:59
84TRÆEN TorsteinNorway21:59
85ERIKSSON LucasSweden21:59
86HAYTER EthanGreat Britain22:03
87BUDYAK AnatoliyUkraine28:05
88OLIVEIRA IvoPortugal32:08

Results provided by ProCyclingStats.