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Julian Alaphilippe makes cycling history

We will tell this race, in a few years, as the perfect counter-example of a tenacious legend concerning a supposed curse of the rainbow jersey, supposed to bring bad luck to its wearer: by hanging the champion’s tunic for the second time. of the world, the only French rider in history to have achieved such a feat, the man from Montluçon has given a scathing denial.

Julian Alaphilippe certainly had a less brilliant season this year with the tunic, but he still won the Flèche Wallonne and failed by a gut in second place in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Not to mention a stage victory in the Tour de France and a yellow jersey as ephemeral as it is remarkable. It is a curse that many French or foreign runners would be happy to be satisfied with.

Should we completely erase the weight of the tunic on the shoulders? The main interested party was the first to take it into account before the race, declaring in front of the media the whole and the opposite of the same reality. “I’m happy to put this jersey on”, he confessed to our colleagues The team, Saturday September 25. “I have never taken the start of such a relaxed world championship”, He also said in front of the television cameras, in Antwerp, when he got on his bike in the direction of Leuven.

This is the second version of his speech which was confirmed on the asphalt. After spending twenty minutes shaking the peloton, he went uphill 17 km from the finish, three more than in the 2020 title, before escaping and keeping his opponents at bay. Some were visibly paralyzed by the stakes and faced with the decision whether or not to go in pursuit of the Frenchman, whom they only saw on the top step of the podium.

Perfectly sheltered by a French team entirely devoted to its two leaders, including the defending champion, and the much lesser-known Florian Sénéchal, he had a wise and tactical journey lasting 230 km. Almost quiet and relaxed, if we can thus describe 268 kilometers traveled at a hellish pace driven by a Belgian team and its Wout Van Aert locomotive a little seized.

This feat places him very high in the hierarchy of world runners and sport in general. Since the post-war period, only five men have inscribed their names on the world champion’s trophy two years in a row. The latest, the Slovakian Peter Sagan, did even better, having won three times in 2015, 2016 and 2017, in turn fueling the legend of the Evil Eye, since his last title corresponds to the start of his decline.

A victory for Frenchman Florian Sénéchal, another man of this in-form French team, would have been surprising rainbows, like the titles of Laurent Brochard (1997) or Luc Leblanc (1994), to store on the shelf. But that of Julian Alaphilippe is similar to the titles of Bernard Hinault or Louison Bobet, at the peak of their art when they have worn the crown. It also sanctions the victory of a winning strategy by coach Thomas Voeckler, whose men started with a power-play, since the reigning world champion runs in addition to the other boys making up a selection.

The achievements of Julian Alaphilippe, man of one-day races rather than three weeks, is far from those of the hunters of great tours, but his name will henceforth remain engraved on the pediment of French cycling. Two world champion titles, in a row or not, no one other than him has done it in France since the creation of the championship, in 1927, since each of the French world champions has only one crown in his salon: Georges Speicher (1933), Antonin Magne (1936), Louison Bobet (1954), André Darrigade (1959), Jean Stablinski (1962), Bernard Hinault (1980), Luc Leblanc (1994), and Laurent Brochard (1997) .

Before the departure, he proclaimed his dream of“To be as before”, that is to say take the start of a race without the obligation to honor his tunic. “For a year, I have been so keen, in each race, all the time, to honor it, that I added pressure to myself, unconsciously, and that made me make small mistakes”, he said. He will have looked for an additional year of this happy ordeal? He even asked for more in front of France Télévisions cameras after the arrival. ” Never two without three “, he said, making an appointment for the future.


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