Something has changed.

Julian Alaphilippe, where has your goatee gone?

Your move, Mathieu Burgaudeau.

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Sometimes in life you wake up and decide it’s time for a change. For Julian Alaphilippe – two-time World Champion, all-time contender for Peloton’s Most Flamboyant Rider – we can point to at least two distinct moments in time when that was the case. 

The first: a two-week window in late March 2018, when a formerly clean-shaven young Frenchman decided it was time to grow a goatee, rocking up at the Vuelta a Pais Vasco on April 2 with a “new musketeer-like look, which made fans and riders question him.”

This mixed response didn’t seem to matter much to Alaphilippe. “The other riders came to me and asked if there was any reason behind this new look,” Alaphilippe said at the time. “To be frank, there wasn’t any and I wasn’t even focused on it, but now that I won, I’ll keep it.”

The public unveiling – a win on stage 1 of the Vuelta a Pais Vasco. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

For most of five seasons, that goatee would be his constant companion – through yellow jerseys, through rainbow jerseys, through polka dot jerseys, in sickness and in health. As Alaphilippe won more, so did his goatee. 

The goatee – not a universally adored facial accoutrement – was transformed upon Alaphilippe’s face into something iconic. Other goatees followed. Dani Martínez, Anthoine Raugel, especially Mathieu Burgaudeau. But the foremost goatee in professional cycling was always the one worn by Alaphilippe. Until now. 

Cue the second big facial-hair-related change in Alaphilippe’s life – a much more specific point than the first, falling either last night or this morning, prior to the start of stage 5 of the 2022 Vuelta a España. Under the beating Spanish sun, the World Champ debuted a new look. 

Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images

It’d be easy to speculate about the reasons behind this abrupt change, to further a parasocial relationship with a famous cyclist’s famous facial hair, but the truth is we don’t know much. There could have been months of inner tumult leading to this point. It could have been a moment’s bored experimentation with a razor in Northern Spain. We do not know the reaction of his teammates, of his partner, of his child.

All we know is that on stage 4, Julian Alaphilippe had a goatee, and on stage 5 just a moustache remained. He used to look like Julian Alaphilippe. Now he looks like a World War 1 fighter pilot. It will take some getting used to.

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