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Remco Evenepoel delivers Julian Alaphilippe to his first win in 2022

The victory made the Frenchman the first reigning world champion to win a stage at the Basque Country tour.

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Julian Alaphilippe gave his beleaguered Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team something to smile about with an emphatic victory Tuesday at Itzulia Basque Country.

The Frenchman’s first win in 2022 came thanks in part to a near-perfect leadout from teammate Remco Evenepoel in the 207km second stage.

“My goal here was to take a win,” Alaphilippe said. “And now that I did it I will try to return the favor to Remco and help him in the next stages.”

Alaphilippe, 29, finished off a massive leadout from Evenepoel in the closing kilometer of the race’s longest stage in an uphill finale into Viana.

Alaphilippe returned to racing this week after a bout of illness forced him to skip Milano-Sanremo, and kicked with 150m to go to confirm his form is right on time for the upcoming Ardennes classics.

The Belgian outfit might be running ragged in the northern classics, but its squad in the one-week WorldTour stage is delivering the goods.

Evenepoel powered to second in Monday’s opening time trial, and Alaphilippe won for the first time in 2022. Evenepoel retained his second place at 5 seconds behind Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma).

“I didn’t have the best start to the season, but I came with a lot of motivation at the start and this victory gives me a lot of satisfaction,” Alaphilippe said.

The victory also made Alaphilippe the first reigning world champion to win a stage at the Basque Country tour, considered by many the most difficult one-week stage race on the international calendar.

Remco Evenepoel celebrates as Alaphilippe charges to victory. (Photo: Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)