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Every time Julian Alaphilippe stood up in 2022, he got knocked back down.
The defending two-time world champion roared into the season full of ambition, but a string of high-speed crashes all but derailed his second full season in the rainbow stripes.
Crashes at Strade Bianche, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Vuelta a España saw the dashing Frenchman far from his flamboyant and proficient self.
To pour salt on the wounds, he later contracted COVID-19.
“It’s been the hardest season of my career. I’ve never been at 100 percent during a race in 2022,” Alaphilippe said. “I’ve always trained hard, given my best and fought to come back every time, but having to start over and over again was actually harder than the crashes themselves.”
Despite crashes at Strade Bianche and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Alaphilippe fought back each time to win again. In April, he won a stage at Itzulia Basque Country, and in July won a stage at Tour de Wallonie.
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There was no coming back from his third crash at the Vuelta, and though he raced the worlds and the Italian classics, Alaphilippe didn’t come close to victory again.
In terms of wins with two, 2022 was his leanest season since 2017.
The French puncheur thanked his family and teammates for the support, but admitted high-speed crashes across the 2022 campaign will mark his future.
“When it’s dangerous on the descents, I’m a little more afraid of falling than before. It doesn’t mean that I’m going to brake more, but I have to admit that I feel the danger a little more,” he said in a team video. “When you fall a lot, you are more careful than those who have never experienced a big accident and a long recovery.”
Alaphilippe targets a return to the Tour de France, Tour of Flanders
His future is secure, and he has two more season remaining on his contract with Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, set to race as Soudal-Quick-Step in 2023.
Alaphilippe, now healthy and pain-free, is already setting his sights on 2023.
“I no longer have any pain when I’m on the bike, so I’m not afraid to race and nothing will hold me back in 2023,” he said. “I can’t wait to be able to fight again to win big races.”
A return to the Tour de France, which he missed in 2022 for the first time since his debut in 2017, and a big focus on the spring classics will be in the cards.
“I was not ready. If I had been on the Tour, I would surely have done gruppetto every day,” he said of the Tour. “It was not in my interest, nor in that of the team, so it was the best decision not to participate.”