Alaphilippe comes fourth in the Olympics
Not even a crash on the last descent could stop Julian from being a protagonist at his first ever participation.
This week, 10 500 athletes arrived in Rio de Janeiro, but not all could attend the spectacular opening ceremony on the Maracana Stadium, as many of them were expected to go into action on Saturday morning, across various disciplines. Among them were also the riders, who were set to face one of the toughest courses ever seen in a one-day race; held over a 237.5-km long mountainous route, which included two different circuits (Grumari and Vista Chinese), the event came to life in the final 50 kilometers, when the Italian team attacked on the downhill, taking most of the contenders by surprise.
A 10-man group tackled the penultimate climb of this savage race with a 45-second gap over the bunch, from which Julian Alaphilippe decided to attack once the race went up the final ascent. Coming off his first Tour de France, the 24-year-old dropped Chris Froome on his way to the front, joining the group with around 15 kilometers remaining. At that point, Sergio Henao, Rafal Majka and Vincenzo Nibali were in the lead, enjoying a 15-second cushion as they were preparing to crest the top of the climb.
The trio looked to be in control, but on the narrow and twisty descent Nibali and Henao crashed, leaving just the Polish cyclist at the front. Majka went in time trial mode, while the elite group was still 20 seconds adrift; as they were heading to the famous Copacabana beach, Jakob Fuglsang and Greg Van Avermaet attacked and then collaborated, bridging up to Majka with 1500 meters to go. In the sprint, the Belgian outkicked his opponents and claimed the gold medal, with Fuglsang coming home second, once the Polish rider couldn't hold on anymore.
Riding his first Olympics, Julian Alaphilippe finished in fourth place, after jumping from the group in the closing kilometers and going in pursuit of the three riders up front. Despite a valiant effort, the Frenchman couldn't catch them, but still had enough left in the tank to beat Spain's Joaquim Rodriguez for one of his best results of the season, which is even more remarkable considering Julian crashed on the final descent into a tree and hurt his right elbow.
"I don't have any regrets, because I did everything I could and spent every ounce of energy in this tough race. It was hectic and brutal, but overall I can say I've lived a great experience. I felt really good today and am content with my ride and the result I got", said Julian Alaphilippe, who displayed on Saturday all the traits necessary to become a huge champion, from heart and passion to grit and ambition. Besides him, two other Etixx – Quick-Step riders completed the grueling event in Rio de Janeiro: Daniel Martin (13th), who equaled Ireland's best ever result in the Olympic road race, and Petr Vakoč (58th).
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele