Star rider Alaphilippe, who races for Belgian team Deceuninck – Quick-Step in the regular season, put in three staggering attacks in the final 20km of the elite men’s road race on Sunday (September 26), successfully defending his 2020 title.
It was in the French colours that Julian Alaphilippe broke the hearts of the fans in Flanders, as he powered clear of home favourites Wout van Aert and Jasper Stuyven in the closing kilometres.
As Alaphilippe soloed towards the finish on the roads of Flanders, Belgian fans could be seen gesturing to the defending champion to slow down as Jasper Stuyven, born in the finish city of Leuven, was part of the chasing group behind.
Speaking after the finish, Alaphilippe said: “Well last year it was a dream come true for me. It was very difficult, but a fantastic feeling. I know what it is to have a year in the rainbow jersey so I had a lot of motivation but I didn’t have any pressure really.”
On whether he believed he could defend his jersey when he woke up on the morning of the race, Alaphilippe said: “It wasn’t something I had in mind. I didn’t think it would happen, I didn’t think it would be possible.”
It was an unforgettable performance by Alaphilippe, who put in a trio off attacks in the closing kilometres to dispatch his nearest rivals, including the chosen Belgian leader Wout van Aert.
While a chasing group behind, which included Stuyven, Dylan van Baarle (Netherlands) and Michael Valgren (Denmark,) tried to close the gap to Alaphilippe, the latter was able to extend his advantage on the final lap to delivery a huge victory.
On what he thought about as he attacked solo, Alaphilippe said: “It was horrible. I don’t have any words. It was hard. I thought about my son. I would give everything for him.
“A lot of Belgian fans also asked me to slow down and they weren’t very nice, that gave me extra motivation.”