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Julian Alaphilippe said that he wasn’t sure about his form ahead of La Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday, but after storming to his third career win in the race, he is feeling a lot better about things now.
“You always have doubts and I was not 100% confident before the start today,” Alaphilippe said following the win. “But I was still very motivated because it’s a race that suits me very well even if I am not at 100%.”
Although he has constantly been in the conversation as a favorite for nearly every race he has started this year, Alaphilippe had not actually taken a one-day win in 2021 until Wednesday atop the Mur de Huy, where he followed a late move from Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and then pulled past the reigning Vuelta a España champ in the final hundred meters.
Indeed, Alaphilippe’s win was his first WorldTour one-day win in the rainbow jersey. Finishing atop the podium in a race he has won before, Alaphilippe proved that he is back to his best.
“I just wanted to show people that I was strong in the head. Since the start of the season I haven’t won a lot. That did not stop me having fun, but it was important for me to raise my arms again,” he said.
“I put some pressure on myself. Not pressure, but I wanted to win again. It does me an enormous amount of good to win, especially in the jersey. I’m really happy.”
Alaphilippe’s win came thanks to a perfect combination of power and timing, as it so often does at La Flèche Wallonne. Roglic launched the big move on the Mur de Huy with around 300 meters to go, and Alaphilippe did not immediately get onto his rival’s wheel. He did, however, pull away from the rest of the pack with only Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) for company, and then Alaphilippe gradually closed the distance between himself and Roglic. He had pulled even as the climb topped out, and then had enough speed left in the last hundred meters to secure the win.
“I tried to manage my effort as best I could and not go too soon, and I gauged Roglic well,” Alaphilippe said. “I saw he was going very, very hard and I felt it wasn’t necessary to go after him straightaway. I realized that it flattened out afterwards, so I really made the maximum effort at the end and kept it going to the line.”
With La Flèche Wallonne in the books, Alaphilippe and so many other stars now turn their attention to Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Last year, Alaphilippe looked set to win the race, but celebrated too early and was ultimately relegated to fifth anyway. He insisted that he’s moved on from his frustrating 2020 experience there.
Whatever happens next, at least he’s already taken a big one-day win.