The French rider took the race lead following an eventful stage 5, which he won after spending the day in the break.
Julian Alaphilippe savoured his third victory of the year, and Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s fourth in three days, at the end of the hardest Tour Colombia stage so far, which took the riders over a mountainous 177.2km-long course around La Union, packing five classified climbs, more than 2 000 vertical meters and a finish at 2 519 meters, enough to make an important selection in the peloton and bring significant changes to the overall standings.
The day started with Bob Jungels in the orange jersey, which the Luxembourger donned after powering to a solo win on the previous stage, and continued with his French teammate booking a place in a strong breakaway group which contained several riders that posed a serious threat to the general classification. After the first intermediate sprint, which Julian won, the leaders nudged out their advantage to three minutes, and even though the fierce tempo of the peloton eroded it to a minute by the time the escapees entered on the final lap, they victory played between those at the front.
Before the road went up one more time and the riders faced again the 5% average gradient of the 7.4km-long Alto La Union, Alaphilippe accelerated off the front together with Ivan Sosa (Team Sky) and built a ten-second gap over what was left of the escapees’ group. On the toughest segment of the climb, the Colombian got out of the saddle and gained several bike lengths, while an attack from behind saw Daniel Martinez (EF Education First) join him.
Julian didn’t panic and rode his own pace, always dangling around 15 seconds behind the newly-formed duo. Together with Richard Carapaz (Movistar) and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), the 26-year-old Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider began to make up ground on the fast descent and came back to the duo inside the last kilometer. Despite leading out the sprint, Alaphilippe remained cool as a cucumber and expertly navigated through the final corners, before kicking out with 200 meters to go, on a short uphill drag.
As the confetti rained down, Julian triumphantly punched the air to celebrate another victory which confirmed his good early-season form, that so far has netted three wins and three other podiums in less than two weeks of racing.
“I am very happy! Coming here, my goal was to win a stage and I am delighted I could bring another one for the team after those of Alvaro and Bob. It was a very hard day, but we knew it was going to be like this, so that’s why I jumped in the breakaway, where we rode full gas despite many having tired legs after what has been a tough week of racing here”, Julian said following the thrilling stage 5 finale.
Just like last year, his victory at the Tour Colombia took Alaphilippe to the top of the general classification, where teammate Bob Jungels sits in fifth place, but despite having the orange jersey on his shoulders, the Frenchman insisted the overall isn’t a priority: “Today, I won with my head and heart after a great effort and I want to enjoy this beautiful moment. I have a few seconds over the next riders in the standings, but I’m not thinking of this now. We’ll see tomorrow what the race will bring and how things will unfold.”
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images