Alaphilippe’s yellow jersey is ‘hanging by a thread’: Daily News Digest

by Matt de Neef

Welcome to your Daily News Digest. Here’s what’s happening today:

Alaphilippe not confident of holding yellow to Paris, Egan Bernal has said he’ll work for Geraint Thomas, Thibaut Pinot is eyeing off the podium, and Romain Bardet is looking for a change in 2020. All this and more in today’s edition of the CyclingTips Daily News Digest..

Story of the day: Alaphilippe’s yellow jersey is “hanging by a thread”

There’s no doubt about it: Julian Alaphilippe has been the rider of this year’s Tour de France. He’s won a road stage solo, he’s won a time trial, he’s defended yellow with grit and gusto, and somehow, against the odds, he’s still in yellow as the third week begins.

Few thought he would get this far in the lead, perhaps himself included. Indeed, he said earlier in the race that every extra day in yellow was a bonus. He’s now had 11 days in the maillot jaune and should get at least two more. But it gets harder from there.

“The toughest is yet to come,” the Frenchman told reporters on the second rest day. “One minute thirty ahead, that is a lot and very little at the same time. One weakness on a mountain over 15, 20 kilometres and it is all over.”

Stages 18 through 20 are all true Alpine stages — big climbs over 2,000 metres, two tough summit finishes. Alaphilippe was able to defend yellow on the Tourmalet and on Prat d’Albis, but the summit finish to stage 20, atop Val Thorens, might be a step too far.

“The climb up Val Thorens will be terrible right up to the summit,” said Alaphilippe. “When I look at the profile of these stages in the Alps, I tell myself that my jersey is hanging by a thread.

“As we get closer to Paris, the more the feeling is different, the more it’s special. But with regards to the difficult stages coming up, I’m realistic. The hardest part is still ahead.”

Alaphilippe isn’t letting himself imagine winning the Tour overall. But he is determined to hold on to yellow as long as he possibly can.

“I don’t want to dream, but I’m going to give it everything.”

Socially speaking

Viviani needed a rest day

This is gold from Elia Viviani.

If you haven’t seen it already, we gave the FaceApp treatment to a whole bunch of Tour de France riders. We challenge you scroll through this gallery and not have a good chuckle.

Sagan’s impromptu book signing

There’s a lot to love about Peter Sagan. Even when he’s not affecting a bike race directly, he’s still making people smile. Chapeau Peter.

Race Radio

Bernal sees Thomas as Ineos’ primary leader

Egan Bernal might have taken 30 seconds on his Ineos teammate Geraint Thomas on stage 15, but the 22-year-old Colombian says he will still ride for the defending champion if required.

Bernal leads the best young rider classification and sits fifth overall.

“The primary leader is still G,” Bernal said at Ineos’ rest day press conference. “We’re going to get behind him.”

But the team is still keeping Bernal as a second option, and why not: he is fifth overall, just 27 seconds behind Thomas in second.

“On Sunday, G was very honest, and he told me he maybe didn’t have the best legs,” Bernal said. “I think that’s also good for the race, for us as a team. If I’m up the road, other riders will maybe hesitate because there’s an Ineos rider up the road and maybe they’ll be reluctant to drag him to the line. So it’s also strategic.”

Pinot aiming for Tour podium: ‘I can be up there’

Thibaut Pinot rode brilliantly on stages 14 and 15, winning the former atop the Tourmalet and pegging back more time on the latter. In doing so he’s started to pull back the time he lost in the crosswinds on stage 10. Now fourth overall, at 1:50 behind, Pinot is aiming for the podium.

“I’m still in the match,” Pinot said on the rest day. “I’m on the right track now in the Tour, I can be up there.”

Pinot winning on the Tourmalet on stage 14.

“I wanted to win on Saturday but on Sunday, now I have that stage win, I started to think about the overall as well. So I went from a long way out. I like attacking without calculating. The team structures are a bit weaker than they were in other years on the Tour, and the race is nicer as a result.

“[Tuesday] is a flat stage, but there could be crosswinds again, and that’s going to be worrying me. I don’t like that, but we’ll make do.”

Bardet to take a different tack in 2020

Over at Ag2r-La Mondiale, Pinot’s compatriot, Romain Bardet, says he’s in need of a reset. He admits this year’s Tour has been a “failure” for him, and he’s keen for a fresh approach in 2020.

“For the past six years, I’ve pretty much had the same programme,” Bardet said, according to L’Equipe. “Next year, I will change my programme. That’s 100% certain. There is too much déjà-vu, it’s too rational. And that’s not cycling. I don’t like to call it a comfort zone because I know only too well the efforts that I make every day to perform well, but yes, there is a weariness.

“I can’t go on like nothing happened. You need to be realistic and lucid,” Bardet said. “I don’t want to stick my head in the sand, that’s not me. It would be a lie to say that it’s only a small snag: it’s a failure. That’s how it is. You need to look at the truth and understand why.”

Daryl Impey on the significance of his Tour de France stage win

It’s been a long, hard road to Tour de France success for Daryl Impey. In a terrific piece for de velo he writes about how he got into the sport to begin with, how a team’s closure early in his career left him high and dry, and how Mitchelton-Scott (then Orica-GreenEdge) took a punt on him — a punt that has paid off for everyone involved. He also reflects on the Tour victory itself.

“I remember shouting as I crossed the line,” Impey writes. “I looked up and saw the mob around me. The emotions came rushing. When I looked down, I had tears in my eyes. I’ve never had that before. It was a moment of realising I’ve reached the top of the sport.

“I shocked myself. The whole day I believed I could win. But to actually achieve it?”

Follow the link to read the full article at de velo.

What’s next for Rohan Dennis?

In the wake of Rohan Dennis’ mysterious withdrawal from the Tour de France, Daniel Benson at Cyclingnews has written an enlightening piece that provides more context about the conditions that led to Dennis’ departure. Benson writes about how Dennis’ pursuit for perfection has led to conflict over the years. Here’s an excerpt:

Impressed with the custom handlebars used by time trial specialist and new Hour Record holder Victor Campenaerts, the Australian asked for the same for his own time trial machine earlier this year. He was initially denied due to the fact that the Lotto Soudal set-up was not in line with the equipment on offer from Bahrain-Merida’s sponsors – in this case Vision. According to a source within the team, Dennis threatened to pull out of a planned media event if the request for the bars wasn’t met. Eventually, the team caved and Dennis got what he wanted. However, the media event never took place.

Follow the link to read the full article at Cyclingnews.

Coming up at the Tour

With the second rest day now behind us, it’s time for the third and final ‘week’ of the 2019 Tour de France. Starting and finishing in Nimes, stage 16 is 177km long and is very likely to end in a bunch sprint. It’s the last chance for the sprinters before Sunday’s final stage on the Champs-Elysees.

Beauty of Cycling

Pyrenean peaks, misty rain, riders pushing themselves to their limit — stage 15 of the Tour provided excellent fodder for photographers. Here’s Simon Yates riding his way to a second stage win, courtesy of The Grubers.

Follow the link to see our full gallery from stage 15 of the 2019 Tour de France.

Moving pictures

Matt White’s pep talk

This is quite a stirring piece of film from Mitchelton-Scott. Documenting Simon Yates’ second stage win at this year’s Tour, it starts with a rousing pep talk in the team meeting from Matt White, and ends with emotion of a different kind from the Aussie sports director. Well worth a look:

Ride and Smile!

This is a lovely video from the UCI showing the simple pleasure that is bike riding.

Adapting artwork at the Tour

You don’t need to speak French or Dutch to get a good chuckle out of this. This is a tribute to the workers that travel the roads of the Tour before the race, adapting questionable pieces of “artwork”.

In case you missed it

Don’t miss out on a moment of our Tour de France coverage — head to our Tour hub page to stay up to date.

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