Every week or so in the past, after profitable the Brabantse Pijl within the rainbow jersey, Julian Alaphilippe pleaded to not be named as a favorite for the Tour of Flanders. Lower than 48 hours out from the massive day, nonetheless, the world champion and his Elegant-QuickStep workforce appeared much less apprehensive about enjoying down his probabilities.
Alaphilippe, for a begin, has been given the workforce’s prime race quantity, carrying 11 forward of a 12 to 17 roster that features adorned cobbled Classics riders in Yves Lampaert, Zdenek Stybar, Kasper Asgreen and Florian Sénéchal.
When the workforce gathered for a pre-race press convention on Friday afternoon, Alaphilippe was seated entrance and centre, flanked by Stybar and Lampaert, with Asgreen within the again row alongside Gent-Wevelgem runner-up Sénéchal, domestique Tim Declercq and Dries Devenyns. The latter’s presence itself was telling. Devenyns is Alaphilippe’s closest ally – his right-hand man within the Ardennes and the Tour de France – and would not be right here until his chief was.
Briefly, this isn’t, as we’d have been led to consider a short time in the past, a case of a beginner tagging alongside for the expertise. It is a beginner main the world’s greatest Classics workforce into their most essential battle of the season.
“Whenever you take a look at me, bodily, for positive I am not an actual Flandrien,” Alaphilippe admitted with a smile. “However I like the actually onerous races. It is a Monument, and I do know what that represents for me, for the workforce, and for biking. It is a massive rendezvous.
“I have been fascinated about it for a number of days now. It is a race I’ve adopted on TV, and one I’ve at all times wished to do. I am actually, actually motivated for it. I’ve bought my coronary heart set on doing an ideal race and going after the absolute best end result. It is a good feeling. It is only a pleasure to find the Tour of Flanders with the rainbow jersey on my shoulders and as a part of a workforce that may play such a giant position within the race.”
Requested extra immediately if victory was on his thoughts, Alaphilippe added: “It is my first participation, I’ve bought no expertise within the Flandrien Classics. I am anticipating a tough race however that is additionally why I wish to uncover it. I wish to give my all and go for the perfect end result doable. I hope I can present the jersey on the entrance of the race.”
Alaphilippe, who launched a decisive assault on the brand new, steep cobbled climb at Brabantse Pijl, had his first style of the cobbles and bergs of the Flemish Ardennes this week, trying out a lot of the 244km parcours throughout coaching rides on Wednesday and Thursday.
“I can not even let you know the names of all of the climbs in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and I’ve finished that 5 instances,” was his riposte when requested by a Flemish journalist about his information of the 17 hellingen on the route.
“I used to be completely happy to be on the market, feeling the cobblestones below my wheels, and getting a really feel for the place I am going to must be nicely positioned. That is the essential stuff, somewhat than remembering the names of the climbs.”
He did, nonetheless, have two handy: the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg. These are tackled twice together – the second time because the finale forward of the 13km run-in to Oudenaarde.
“The Kwaremont-Paterberg is the sequence that I actually tried to absorb. That half will probably be very important.”
The numbers sport
The overwhelming majority of the questions on the press convention have been directed in the direction of the world champion. Even those that weren’t nonetheless principally involved him.
Staff supervisor Patrick Lefevere, standing on the again, was requested about Alaphilippe’s standing in his workforce, which has received seven of the previous 15 editions of the Ronde. Tom Boonen, Philippe Gilbert and Niki Terpstra could have all moved on, however Stybar, Lampaert and Asgreen have all received main cobbled races.
“We can’t be too euphoric,” Lefevere mentioned. “It is his first time, he has no expertise, however he has skilled guides. We particularly put Dries within the workforce to steer Julian so far as he can.
“However let’s not neglect we’ve got different aces up our sleeve who can experience the ultimate as nicely, and who can win. The workforce is understood for its loyalty and we will win with totally different riders. Hopefully on Sunday we’re able the place we will win. It will be nice if it is Julian, however I would not be unhappy if it have been one of many different six boys.”
The ever-improving Sénéchal, winner of Le Samyn final 12 months, appeared to stand up the pecking order together with his Gent-Wevelgem podium final Sunday, however appeared to acknowledge his compatriot’s larger standing.
“I am very completely happy to be on the market with Julian. We’re motivated 100 per cent. Me, Dries, Tim, Yves, Styby… we all know the roads by coronary heart, a bit higher than Julian for positive, however we will stick collectively and we will get Julian to the place he must be,” Sénéchal mentioned.
“As for the finale, will probably be the legs that speak, and Julian’s legs are at 100 per cent – he has the jersey to show that.”
For his half, Alaphilippe echoed what has turn out to be the Belgian workforce’s mantra in the course of the Classics interval – the concept that it does not matter who the winner is, so long as he is carrying a Deceuninck-QuickStep jersey – or an Elegant-QuickStep one on this case.
“The best state of affairs for us isn’t to be in a nasty scenario – to at all times be capable of play with the others. We now have a very robust workforce, so we’ve got to be centered on what we’ve got to do, but additionally be capable of change the plan in the course of the race,” Alaphilippe mentioned.
“After all, our purpose is for there to be as many off us as doable within the finale of the race. After that, it is in regards to the legs. We now have confidence in ourselves to present the utmost and never have any regrets – that is crucial factor.
“It will be tremendous good to win,” he added, “whichever of us it could be.”