UCI World Champion Julian Alaphilippe finishes runner-up in his first race of the season.
Davide Ballerini concluded the week as he started it, by making a visit to the podium after coming across the line a close second on the final stage to be awarded the race’s points jersey, a first for an Italian rider in the six years that have passed since the Tour de la Provence was created.
The 26-year-old Italian from Cantù was perfectly guided in the closing kilometers by his Deceuninck – Quick-Step teammates, who drilled the pace on the technical streets in Salon-de-Provence, Kasper Asgreen and Julian Alaphilippe making sure that Davide was close to the front going under the flamme rouge. Only Czech rider in history to have won a cobbled Classic, Zdenek Stybar took over and put in a huge turn for his teammate, who launched his sprint with 200 meters to go and looked poised to make it a hat-trick of victories in France, only to be denied by Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious) in the final meters.
“It wasn’t easy to be in a good position in the finale, but the team did a great job. I was perfectly positioned by them, with Julian and then Styby delivering a great lead-out, but I just missed a bit in the legs with ten meters to go and that made the difference. On the other hand, it was a memorable week for us and we can be happy with our results – two stage wins, this jersey and Julian’s strong GC – and the strong Wolfpack spirit that helped us enjoy such a strong start to the season”, said Ballerini after his third podium in four days.
Also for the ever-entertaining Julian Alaphilippe it ended up being a good and satisfactory week, that has seen the UCI World Champion play a major role in all the stages – from the long-range breakaway on the opening day and his part in the Deceuninck – Quick-Step sprint train to his third place on the first mountain test of the season, Chalet Reynard.
That result put him onto the overall podium of the race, but the Frenchman wanted more, and soon after the start of stage 4 went for the intermediate sprint in Saint-Michel de Frigolet, where he claimed maximum bonus seconds that moved him to second in the overall standings.
“When I draw the line, I am happy with my form and with how things went for us in this beautiful Tour de la Provence. Our team had an excellent week, we were on the podium on all four days and I took second on my first race of the year, which isn’t too bad. The most beautiful thing was that I got to wear the rainbow jersey in France for the first time this year, it’s a great feeling. Now I will continue my preparation for the Classics season, which I kick off in two weeks’ time at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad”, Julian explained after the race.
Alaphilippe wasn’t the only Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider to finish the Tour de la Provence in the top 10 overall, with 21-year-old Mauri Vansevenant taking a strong eighth place in just his fifth stage race since turning pro last summer.
Photo credit: ©James Startt/Agence ZOOM