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Julian Alaphilippe ended his two seasons in the rainbow jersey Sunday with all the panache he flashed through his world title reign.
The two-time road world champion hailed his successor Remco Evenepoel and praised the efforts of a full-force French assault as Les Bleus looked to land a third-straight men’s elite world title in Wollongong.
“We have no regrets because the strongest has won,” Alaphilippe told l’Equipe. “But we are still second [with Christophe Laporte] and it’s a good second place. We had a great team, we had a good race, we created movement, we were where we needed to be.”
Laporte won the bunch sprint for silver to score France the best result possible after Evenepoel escaped for another unstoppable solo TT Sunday.
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Victory for the young Belgian left Alaphilippe with mixed emotions as his nation was upended by a Cannibalesqe ride from his Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl trade teammate.
“It wasn’t just anyone in front. It is no coincidence that Remco won. He was very strong and not only today. He had an extraordinary season,” Alaphilippe said. “I’m very, very happy for him and that the jersey stays in the [Quick-Step] team.”
Laporte: ‘We can be happy with this silver medal’
The French team was active all day Sunday as it looked to take the race by force.
Riders like Benoît Cosnefroy and Valentin Madouas forced splits in the opening hours of racing and then contributed to the accelerations that allowed Evenepoel to escape with around 20 others later in the day.
French coach Thomas Voeckler said at the finish it seemed inevitable the irrepressible Evenepoel would pull something special Sunday.
Laporte’s silver medal from the chasing group was a victory of sorts after team captain Alaphilippe struggled for form at the twilight of a season littered with illness, injuries, and lost time.
“You can’t win every time. Julian updated us fairly quickly on his condition, he was OK but not as good as usual,” Laporte said.
“I understood that he didn’t want to take any risks by making us work when he wasn’t sure of his legs. He wanted to help us, but we couldn’t do much about Remco.
“No one should have any regrets, we have no reason to grumble. Of course, we still hoped to win but we can be happy with this silver medal.”
Alaphilippe: ‘It will make me appreciate the moments I had with this jersey even more’
Wollongong draws a curtain on a twinkling 24 months for Alaphilippe.
The Frenchman made a perfect fit for his striped top with rip-snorter racing that delivered six victories in the rainbow bands, including a stage win and yellow jersey in last year’s Tour de France.
Alaphilippe committed to causing chaos with all-out racing during his time as world champion. Evenepoel’s bullish ride for Belgium on Sunday looks set to continue the trend as Alaphilippe passes the rainbow baton onward.
“For me, it’s a mix of lots of emotions. I had taken the time to imagine myself without a rainbow jersey next week. It’s already rare to have been able to enjoy it for two years, there is a time for everything,” Alaphilippe said.
“It will make me appreciate the moments I had with this jersey even more.”