Julian Alaphilippe wants to play Monopoly with you

But something feels wrong.

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Julian Alaphilippe meets you at the door of his stylish abode, which is either in Andorra or Central France depending on which Google result you prefer.

His hair is perfectly coiffed, and his Lacoste polo shirt – not a team sponsor; don’t tell his boss – clings elegantly to his lean dual-World Championship-winning torso. On his wrist is a Richard Mille, because of course it bloody is. He leads you to the kitchen. Why the kitchen? That is not clear.

Marble splashbacks. Three to four charcoal plates of varying sizes. Six mugs, waiting to be filled with dire French coffee. On the kitchen island is a large crystal wine decanter. The analogue clock set into the Miele stove reveals that it is either 8.24 AM or PM, so you choose your drink accordingly, or not, depending on the level of chaos you are prepared to inject into your audience with Alaphilippe.

Alaphilippe – beautiful Gallic cycling idol, father of a beautiful son, partner of a beautiful woman – stands silently, almost quizzically behind the island. He has set out a game of Monopoly Cyclisme –  a “special cycling edition of Monopoly” which, you remember from the website copy, will help you “discover the beauty of the landscapes of our French races, both emblematic places and cycling enthusiasts will recognize.”

Julian Alaphilippe wants to play Monopoly with you. He is on the lid of the box, riding in a slightly different direction to Arnaud Démare. They are at the summit of Mont Ventoux, accelerating out of the saddle against the flow of the race. It doesn’t make any sense.

Your eyes dart around the room. Next to the decanter is a black towel or beanie or something. Its presence in this carefully crafted vignette is a mystery. On Alaphilippe’s right is a dying indoor plant. Next to it is a small bottle of hand sanitiser. Reality shatters, like a charcoal plate flung to the ground.

You try to bring your attention back to the moment. Alaphilippe is methodically explaining the rules – the way that “players can, for example, buy Mont Ventoux, Mûr de Bretagne, Alpe d’Huez or the Vélodrome from Roubaix!” He sounds just like the website. You look at the card that he is gently holding on the island counter top, lightly pincered between forefinger and thumb. You try to read what the card says, but can’t make the words out.

Then, you see beyond the card.

The dishwasher is there, slightly open, as if it’s trying to draw your attention to something. Your eyes flit across to the intersection of the Miele stove and the cabinet it’s set within and the vertical line travelling upward. The cabinets are too narrow. The shading is wonky. The countertop runs through where the stove should be. With a rising panic, you realise that something is badly wrong.

Julian Alaphilippe leans towards you, the pixels in his pupils glowing red before each eye is consumed with an inky blackness. You are rooted to the spot, your heart racing and a silent scream trapped in your throat.

“Won’t you stay for one game?” he says, head cocked slightly to the side, the faintest smile tugging at his goatee. Behind you, you hear a door lock.

Monopoly Cyclisme is available now. It costs €50. A single customer reviewer gives a score of five stars, promising that “the Flemish edition with Evenepoel and Gilbert gave us hours of pleasure.”

The publisher of this piece, CyclingTips, emphatically rejects any suggestion that Julian Alaphilippe is a malevolent android, nor that his stylish abode(s) – either in Andorra or central France – is a simulation.

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