Volta Ciclista a Catalunya Stage 1: Alaphilippe Gets First WorldTour Podium of Pro Career
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team rider Julian Alaphilippe earned the first UCI WorldTour podium placing of his young career on Monday. The French rider placed 3rd in the 165.7km first stage of Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. Alaphilippe and Petr Vakoc are the youngest riders on the team, and they were also part of the OPQS investment in young talents that pass through ETIXX Continental Cycling Team. Early in his first professional season, Alaphilippe is already showing his talent with a top 3 finish.
The race became animated on the descent of the final climb of the day. Gianluca Brambilla entered into a three rider escape group, but was pulled back. The same happened for several other attacks, including a three rider breakaway that was down to just Wilco Kelderman (Belkin Pro Cycling Team) after his two break mates took the wrong way around a roundabout.
As teams scrambed for position toward the finish. Luka Mezgec (Giant-Shimano) had the best position and was able to win the stage over Leigh Howard (ORICA-GreenEDGE) and Alaphilippe. Brambilla finished 11th.
OPQS looks next to 171.2km Stage 2 on Tuesday. There are only two categorized climbs, but there is a small climb toward the final kilometers. The peloton will then descend into a flat finish.
"I tried to do the sprint today," Alaphilippe said. "I am super happy for the first podium of my career as a professional. It's kind of bittersweet as this opportunity to go for a win doesn't always happen. I was there, but more or less at 400 meters from the finish I had contact with other guys and almost crashed, so I lost my speed. I launched my sprint again, but it was really hard to win at that point and to do better than this. But, I had power in the legs and that is satisfying. It was a stressful day. I have to thank my teammates, especially Pieter Serry and Gianluca Brambilla, who were there with me to lead me out and did a good job protecting me. It was a hectic sprint, a bit risky, but in any case I am happy about my race today. I am an attacker. Not the best on the climbs, or the sprints, but I try to defend myself everywhere. When I was young I won some sprints in small groups and mass sprints, so we will see what can happen. But to me I know this race, as well as this year, will be a learning process. I'm thankful to OPQS for developing me through their youth program, ETIXX, and giving me a chance to ride for them professionally. It's a joy to ride my bike for OPQS and I will try learn as much as I can from my teammates at the next races."