Philippe Gilbert could serve as a model for Julian Alaphilippe who was his teammate at Deceuninck-Quick Step for three seasons. At 38, the Belgian, world champion in 2012 and with a track record as long as his career, tried and succeeded in the same bet as Alaphilippe: to go from Ardennes classics like the Flèche Wallonne or Liège-Bastogne-Liège to Flandriennes like Paris -Roubaix or the Tour of Flanders. For him, Alaphilippe has the means to win this Sunday on the Tour of Flanders, which he will play for the first time.
Does Julian Alaphilippe have a serious chance of winning the Tour of Flanders?
PHILIPPE GILBERT. On this Tour of Flanders there, I answer that it is possible. A lot of favorites won’t be there like Peter Sagan, Greg Van Avermaet or myself (smile). It will be special. Many specialists like Yves Lampaert, Zdenek Stybar or Niki Terpstra have had physical problems and will be, in my opinion, a cut below. It will therefore be very open and it can lead to a surprise. At the same time, seeing Julian winning right now is never a surprise!
Does Alaphilippe have the necessary physical qualities?
Basically no, because it is very light and even too light for cobbled areas compared to real specialists. But, since 2012, the course has changed and is more affordable for a guy like him. In front of him, there will certainly be Mathieu Van Der Poel and Wout Van Aert, but who seem to be at war. Alaphilippe can win the bet on the Tour of Flanders.
We have the impression that the new world champion has gained a lot in racing science over the past year …
He took from the bottle. He does like me. It took me a while to dominate the six hour races. I was often a protagonist before winning. Julian made the same mistakes as me: at the start of the sixth hour, I felt tired and I felt that I was more tired than the others. So I was playing my game on double-handed attacks. This is the characteristic of runners a little less well. Julian has often fallen into this trap. One day, the click arrives. We understand that patience is very important and we attack exactly at the right time. Julian had that click.
Will his rainbow jersey sublimate it?
It gives her even more confidence. Even if he commits two blunders on Liège-Bastogne-Liège, he is in the game. We feel he is more serene. His desire to honor his jersey is obvious. He will make a very good world champion.
Humanly, how is he?
He does not play a role. Believe me, I have known runners who pretended to the media or the public. Him, he’s always the same. He is generous and whole. And he takes it with derision, saying to himself: “After all, this is just sport”. He is right.
Is it appreciated at its true value by the general French public?
In France, he is loved. I have lots of French friends and they all love him. Don’t forget, at the moment, Arnaud Démare, who is also a super champion. If you allow me a little humor, the French press has often been carried away. For fifteen years, we had the impression that there was a new Bernard Hinault every time. But it was just on the items and we were still waiting on the bike! But, here, Julian is really a very, very great champion.
PODCAST. Julian Alaphilippe, a Tour in the name of the father