Tour de France stage 3: Alaphilippe scores dramatic stage victory to take race lead
Julian Alaphilippe scored a dramatic stage victory on stage 3 after a solo breakaway. Alaphilippe now moves into the race's yellow jersey
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Julian Alaphilippe scored a dramatic breakaway victory on Monday’s third stage of the Tour de France and took hold of the yellow race-leader’s jersey.
The Frenchman powered his way to the finish line in downtown Épernay, located in the heart of France’s Champagne region, to the roars of his countrymen. Alaphilippe’s 26-second margin of victory vaulted him into the race lead, as overnight leader Mike Teunissen crossed the finish line more than four minutes in arrears.
“I was very motivated for today,” Alaphilippe said at the line. “On the last climb, the legs didn’t feel so bad so I went. So, I was alone to the finish but I knew I needed 30-40 seconds. I gave it everything.”
Alaphilippe made his move on the course’s steepest climb, the Côte de Mutigny, which averages 12 percent and fell just 15km from the finish line. After his Deceuninck-Quick-Step teammate Dries Devenys whipped the pace up at the base of the climb, Alaphilippe rode the wheel of Astana rider Alexey Lutsenko for several seconds before launching his acceleration.
Alaphilippe gained a small gap over the top of the climb, and then extended the gap on the ensuing descent. He took enormous risks on the undulating course, often crouching down into a tuck on the steep descents.
The action on the Côte de Mutigny came in the waning kilometers of a 215-kilometer stage that featured a pan-flat profile for the first half, and then a series of punchy climbs on the second half. The stage began in Binche, Belgium, and then crossed the border into France, where it took riders into the heart of the Champagne region.
The peloton took in five climbs on way to the finish—three of those climbs were rated as Category 3 ascents.
Alaphilippe’s attack on the Côte de Mutigny vaulted him up to breakaway rider Tim Wellens (Lotto-Jumbo), who was part of an early move on the stage. Wellens broke away from his companions on the Côte d’Hautvillers, and began pedaling toward the finish by himself. The Belgian rider held a minute gap on the peloton at the base of the Côte de Mutigny, and Alaphilippe’s acceleration quickly closed that gap.
The steep climb shed a number of riders from the pack, including Teunissen, who was distanced on the climb’s midpoint. Teunissen mounted a valiant chase on the hilly final 10km push to the line, but he was ultimately not able to make contact with the group.
“It was harder than I thought and not the legs that I thought I would have,” Teunissen said. “Those two things combined made it a little too hard at the end.”
Teunissen said he will now go back to his normal job, which is to shepherd Dylan Groenewegen to the finish line in the sprint stages.
“The last two days were a dream and now it’s back to reality,” Teunissen said. “It’s amazing what happened and it really cost a lot of energy and I gained a lot of morale and I’ll never forget it.”
After crossing the line Alaphilippe was overcome with emotion, and cameras caught images of him wiping tears from his eyes. Alaphilippe said he has long dreamed of someday taking the Tour’s yellow jersey. Last year he won the polka dot jersey of the race’s best climber, but prior to Monday, the Frenchman had never donned yellow.
“I have dreamed of this happening, and it is unbelievable that it happened,” Alaphilippe said. “When you have an opportunity, you have to seize it. To have the stage win and yellow is the most beautiful thing I could do.”
How long the punchy French rider can hold the race lead now becomes the storyline for the next stages of the Tour. With his aggressive riding style and ability to survive short to medium-sized climbs, Alaphilippe may pose a challenge for the Tour’s big GC favorites. While it’s unlikely Alaphilippe can survive the biggest climbs in the Pyrenees and the Alps, he may maintain his lead through Thursday’s ascent of the La Planche des Belles Filles climb.
“I will try to keep [the yellow jersey] as long as possible,” Alaphilippe said. “It’s the reward for all the work I do, a reward for the road I have taken since starting cycling.”
Results will be available once stage has completed.