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Julian Alaphilippe is growing used to the attention that comes with the rainbow jersey.
After winning it for the second year in a row in stunning fashion in Leuven last month, the French star is taking a break from a busy off-season full of obligations and is already looking ahead to 2022.
The Deceuninck-Quick-Step star will return to what works best, and will target the Ardennes classics, and stages at the Tour de France for next year’s campaign.
“What will change for the first part of next season will be to stay focused on the Ardennes classics,” Alaphilippe told RMC Radio. “Last year I wanted to try to juggle the Tour of Flanders and Ardennes classics, and though I realized that it was possible to do it, being 100 percent on both is not easy.”
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Alaphilippe raced the past two editions of Flanders, but he said the hard effort costs him going into the explosive Ardennes, which clearly favor him more.
So for 2022, he’ll skip Flanders, focus on Strade Bianche and Milano-Sanremo in March, and then hit such races as Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège at full force.
“These are the races that suit me the best,” Alaphilippe said of the Ardennes. “I loved discovering the Tour of Flanders, and it is a race that I will come back to do some day, and be at 100 percent to play for victory.
“Right now, getting ready for the Flèche Wallonne or Liège-Bastogne-Liège at the end of April and winning the Tour of Flanders is a bit difficult,” he said. “Next year I will stay in the Ardennes. Then the Tour de France will be there quickly, and we’ll see.”
Focus on Tour de France stages right now
And what about another run at the Tour de France podium?
Alaphilippe raised the pulses of every French fan in 2019, when he carried the yellow jersey into the final week and finished fifth overall in Paris.
Alaphilippe said he likes the varied and unpredictable route that’s been outlined for 2022, but he said he’ll be focused on trying to win stages.
“It’s a course that is very popular for sure because it’s difficult to predict a scenario,” Alaphilippe told the French radio station. “I like it when it’s like that. Already in the first week with a time trial, stages with hills for puncheurs, or cobblestones and the mountains that will follow one another. So much can happen in the first week and in the first part of the Tour. It’s hard to predict a scenario, and it’s something that I really enjoy.
“When I say that, I don’t mean the overall standings,” he said. “I’m just thinking about making good stages and trying to win. A lot of things are going to happen and that will make the Tour interesting. That’s what I mean when I say that I like the Tour route.
“There are also very difficult stages with the high mountains which will be very complicated. I’m not making too many plans just yet. I will wait to recognize certain stages before going to set myself clearer goals.”