Julian Alaphilippe spoke of the contradiction at the heart of this second consecutive world title, admitting that losing the rainbow jersey would have been “some form of relief” and yet explaining how he had come close to breaking point to secure the victory in Leuven on Sunday.
The Frenchman won four races in his first stint in the rainbow jersey, including the Flèche Wallonne and the opening stage of the Tour de France, but he was not the overwhelming favorite to retain his title in Flanders.
Still, Alaphilippe put on a demonstration during the World Championships road race, attacking several times in the final 50 kilometers and eventually breaking free on his own with little more than one lap to go.
“Without being defeatist, I was ready to lose the jersey,” said Alaphilippe The team.
“I also know what it cost me. It took a lot of energy. It made me make mistakes sometimes, out of impatience to win, wanting to show off the jersey all the time, honor it, make it shine the best I could. It took a lot of me, and it was also a lot of pressure that I put on myself.
“So I was like, ‘We come here to win, but if I lose the jersey, it will also be a kind of relief.’ But at the same time, I was starting a race and wanted to win it. So let’s go for the jersey: it’s history, the most beautiful jersey in cycling. And so you go. It’s hard to describe.
Alaphilippe admitted to L’Équipe that running without the rainbow stripes on Sunday had already been a form of liberation. Back in the navy blue of the France team, he no longer felt the weight of the title on his shoulders and the eyes of the peloton on his rear wheel.
“It’s 300% certain. I have been released. It’s hard to explain, but I was much more relaxed, ”said Alaphilippe.
“It’s really contradictory. I absolutely wanted to win, because we all want to win, but on the other hand, I was happy to be a normal rider again, with less pressure, a rider who can have more fun.
“I haven’t lost that idea, but you become obsessed with the urge to do well and that takes energy. [The rainbow jersey] is the one that attracts attention. You can’t be bad wearing it; you always want to do better. I don’t know, but with the France team jersey, I was freer.
Alaphilippe pledged to remain the same aggressive rider in his second year in the rainbow jersey, but expressed hope that he would be less demanding of himself in his role as world champion. .
“I’m not going to change the way I ride or my way of being, but in my approach to certain goals, I’m going to try to be more relaxed, that’s how it works best,” he said. he declares.
“Honoring the jersey every time is really difficult. I’m happy with what I did, but you can’t ask me too much. I sometimes felt like I hadn’t done enough, even though I was told that I had graced the jersey in a way that we hadn’t seen in a long time, but I always asked for more to myself, all the time. Except that after a while, I am also human. Maybe it’s little things like that that will change next year.
Asked to look back on his winning effort on Sunday, Alaphilippe reiterated that he ran largely on instinct, unlike a year ago, when his victory at Imola was based entirely on an explosive effort in the last ascent of Cima Gallisterna.
“These are races where you have to love hurting yourself, you have to be a bit masochistic,” said Alaphilippe of his solo attack in Leuven. “I was at the breaking point, it’s horrible, but that’s how you build great victories. I had already attacked several times, but the last time, I thought I would put everything in … “