Shortly after Wout van Aert rolled down the start ramp in Lacapelle-Marival on his way to winning the final time trial of the Tour de France, Julian Alaphilippe put his right arm in the air atop the Mur de Huy, nearly 900 kilometeres and a world away from the chaos of the Tour de France, marking his first victory since a terrible crash at Liège-Bastogne-Liège in late April.
Alaphilippe suffered two broken ribs, a fractured scapula and a punctured lung in the Liège crash, putting him in a hospital bed for days, and only returned to racing shortly before the Tour kicked off in Copenhagen. His QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl team made the decision to leave him at home this July, saying at the time that “it is felt that for a rider like him it’s always important to be on top of his game and be able to compete with the best riders of the peloton in a race like Le Tour.” When the Tour started, he wasn’t yet at that level.
On Saturday, in the first stage of the Tour de Wallonie from Temploux to Huy, Alaphilippe proved that his form is quickly returning. He overhauled Alex Aranburu (Movistar) and Robert Stannard (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and crossed the line with a few bike lengths to spare. Behind, the front group came through in drips and drabs.
The field in Wallonie may not be Tour-caliber, but a win’s a win, and Alaphilippe will be a favorite for many of the punchy stages in the upcoming Vuelta a España. Perhaps even for San Sebastián, which he is slated to start on July 30.