Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s World Champion is fourth overall with three days to go.
Thursday brought the first mountain stage of the week with a hard summit finish as the cherry on the top, which was also the only uphill finish of this year’s edition. A break of three men animated the 175.2km stage after going clear one hour into the race, and Deceuninck – Quick-Step helped with the chase and worked hard for Julian Alaphilippe to bring back the leaders.
Mid-way up the penultimate climb, after the escapees had been reeled in, attacks began coming. First to show his intentions was Esteban Chaves (Team BikeExchange), who later got joined and left behind by Jakob Fuglsang (Astana-Premier Tech), while the World Champion remained calm and well-positioned in the small group, which was shedding riders out the back due to the strong tempo.
On the final climb others tried to attack, and Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) got away. Alaphilippe rode strongly and tried to close the gap, but it proved to be a difficult task given the lack of collaboration in the group. The Ecuadorian took the win, while the chasers arrived some 40 seconds later. Julian finished seventh in Leukerbad and is now fourth in the standings, after being docked 20 seconds for taking a bottle from the team car inside the last ten kilometers.
“I gave my maximum, so I have no regrets. It was a hard and difficult final, and the whole day went really fast, as we rode à bloc. I studied the final well in the book and on video, so I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and I stayed in the front in the closing part of the stage. It was a bit tactical in the end, with some attacks, and I just focused on riding my own pace, as it went really hard”, said Alaphilippe, who also explained the reason that brought him a penalty in the GC. “In the final I didn’t have any water left, but I needed it in this warm weather, so I took the bottle. Now I will move my attention to Friday, when we will have another nice stage and demanding stage. I find a lot of pleasure in riding here and my legs feel good. It’s a pity that we didn’t score a win yet, but we’ll try again.”
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images