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TARBES, France (VN) — Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) is now a Tour de France contender. Those in the peloton, one day after he won the time trial in the yellow jersey, think he can win the race overall this year and if not, in the years to come.
“I would not be surprised if he was still there at the final of this Tour de France in Paris,” said Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma), who won the first day.
“And and if you’re that strong, you can also do it on the Tourmalet. And after that, it’s only three more mountain stages, so yeah, I think he’s a good contender now.”
What makes the 27-year-old dangerous, is his ability to out-sprint General Classification cyclists like Thomas and Teunissen’s team-mate Steven Kruijswijk.
“He sprinting for every bonus sprint. It’s not only only to keep the yellow jersey. I think also already he has it in the back of his head, and of course, he should. I mean, if he has a bad day, he has a bad day, but otherwise, he must give everything. I think he’s a big contender now.”
Alaphilippe’s biggest wins prior to the Tour were one-day races. This spring, he won Strade Bianche, Milano-Sanremo, and the Flèche Wallonne. He has been able to transfer that one-day form into stage race wins, like the Tour of Britain in 2018. Now, he’s doing it in the Tour.
“What he’s doing now is not too bad,” Teunissen said. “He did already a really good season and also now he’s doing really well, so I would not see any reason why he should change his season approach.”
“Yeah, I think can he can win this Tour,” added George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma). “For sure. I can’t see real weakness in him.”
Alaphilippe won the Épernay third stage to take the yellow jersey. He fought to maintain his place near the top at the Planche des Belles Filles. But the time trial, concluding nine days in the yellow, was a surprise for many.
“After that time trial yesterday I was like, oh no, he’s still there,” Nicolas Roche (Sunweb) said.
“You know, at this point, I think a lot of the GC guys are saying, ‘How do we beat him?’ It’s not going to be easy to get rid of him.”
The Tourmalet and mountains to come will tell us much about Alaphilippe’s makings. However, there is a feeling that this Tour could change his career path.
“In the time trial, he made a big statement,” said American Ben King (Dimension Data). “So yeah, I think everyone’s taking him a lot more seriously”