Julian Alaphilippe writes history at the Tour of California
At 23 years and 346 days, the Frenchman became the youngest winner in the history of the US race.
How long is the timespan that lies between disappointment and happiness, between getting to know the sorrow taste of defeat and being on the top of your world? For Julian Alaphilippe, the new champion of the Tour of California, the answer is one year and 24 seconds. One year, because 12 months ago he came runner-up in the US race, despite a superb display on the grueling Mount Baldy, and 24 seconds because at the previous edition he lost the GC for just three seconds, while now he took home the yellow jersey for 21 seconds.
It was a victory forged on Gibraltar Road, a new addition to the race, where Julian attacked with 1500 meters to go and destroyed the opposition, notching his maiden win of the year in the process, but also in the 20-km long Folsom individual time trial, during which the Frenchman had the ride of his life in an ITT and went full gas on his way to defending the coveted yellow jersey. It also was a victory of a fantastic and hard-working squad, which protected Julian at all times and made sure of controlling its rivals, this impressive display coming as proof of the unique team spirit that is a defining characteristic of Etixx – Quick-Step.
Less than three weeks shy of his 24th birthday, Julian Alaphilippe put the regrets of last year's Tour of California to rest on Sunday, and sealed his first career GC triumph, one which comes as further evidence of his potential which seems to know no limits: "It's really incredible. I took the yellow jersey at the end of stage 3 and that acted as a morale booster; then, after the individual time trial, I was more and more confident."
For sure, it's the most beautiful day of my career and I must thank my teammates for this special moment and for believing in me.
Coming into the last day of the event (Sacramento – Sacramento, 138 kilometers) with a 16-second cushion over his closest rival in the overall standings, Julian – the first Frenchman to win the GC in the 11 years since it was created – admitted of being nervous in the first part of the stage, before eventually relaxing once the race came into its final kilometers.
"It was stressful today, because everyone wanted to stay at the front and fought for a better position. Usually, I'm not nervous, but today things were different, as the victory was closer and closer. Thankfully, I had a powerful team around me, which was always in charge, and as soon as Tom Boonen hit the front with me safely tucked behind him, it was like being on a holiday. Now, we'll celebrate the win, but once we will return home, I'll be back on my bike, training and looking to further improve", concluded Julian, the youngest ever winner in the history of the Tour of California.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele