He was one of the big breakthrough riders of the 2015 season, yet was far quieter towards the end. Now, Etixx – Quick-Step competitor Julian Alaphilippe has explained just what went wrong.
The 23 year old impressed greatly early on, placing second in both La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, taking seventh in the Amstel Gold Race and winning a stage plus finishing as runner-up in the Tour of California.
He later took top ten finishes in the French national road race championships, the Clasica San Sebastian and the Eneco Tour. A drop in form followed, and it has taken some time to work out the reasons.
Alaphilippe didn’t ride the Tour de France, having a planned break then in order to be strong in the end of season.
“I restarted again with a few European races before departing for Canada,” he explained in a blog on the Etixx – Quick-Step site, referring to the two WorldTour events, the Grand Prix Cycliste Quebec and Montreal.
“Unfortunately, that was when things did not go so well for me. When I arrived in Canada for the races I immediately had the feeling that something was wrong. I didn’t feel really well. But, when you are young, you think it is simply a matter of fatigue and not fully recovering. I didn’t really think about it. I tried to do my job.”
He hoped for something better at the world road race championships in Richmond, Virginia, but that didn’t work out as planned.
“I spent 15 days there, so for me it was a long period mentally. Sadly, the feeling did not improve. In fact, it felt worse. I was training really hard, but my body didn’t respond as I hoped. I rode the Worlds, but since the first pedal stroke I knew it would be bad for me. There was nothing I could do with my condition.
“When I returned to Europe, I discovered I had mononucleosis. It was probably present in my body for a few weeks prior.”
Also known as glandular fever, mononucleosis can have a severe effect on people, particularly athletes, because of the fatigue it brings.
Alaphilippe said that he had mixed feelings once he understood he had the condition.
“In one way I was upset, because I couldn’t finish the season the way I wanted, especially with worlds on a road course I really liked,” he said.
“But, on the other hand, I was relieved. I finally had an answer for why my body was not at the level I expected. It was because of an illness, not because I did something wrong in training or recovery. Now I am focusing on full recovery.”
Looking at the season as a whole, Alaphilippe has much to be happy about. He said he took enjoyment from riding well and helping his team-mate Michal Kwiatkowski in Paris-Nice. He described his two podium finishes in the Ardennes Classics as a wonderful feeling, and his win in the Tour of California as icing on the cake.
“After a lot of places in big races, it was a relief to finally raise my hands as a victor. It was fantastic. As a team we won four stages out of eight,” he said. “So, I also experienced great teamwork. At the end we really worked together to try to help me win this race. At the end I was second, but the stage victory is one I won’t forget.
“The first part of this season was something great and something I will carry with me through my career.”
Alaphilippe said he is due to take a period off the bike before working towards next season. He said that he recently met his new team-mate Dan Martin during team meetings in Brussels, and said that there was already a feeling of cooperation between them.
“It was nice to chat with him and discuss our mutual love for those races. We will see what we can do together,” he said.
“I think I can learn a lot from him and can start the 2016 season on the right path with Etixx – Quick-Step.”