|Tour de France - Alaphilippe still 1st in GC [22-07-19 08:53 by staff GoNBike.com]|
Alaphilippe conserves Tour de France yellow jersey after Pyrenees
On the toughest and most dramatic stage of this year’s race so far, Julian Alaphilippe struggled for the first time when it started pouring with attacks, but that didn’t discourage Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s livewire, who fought valiantly on the punishing ramps of Prat d’Albis and retained his beloved maillot jaune.
Starting from Limoux, stage 15 needed almost one hour for a breakaway to finally get green light from the peloton, who travelled at crazy speeds in the first 40 kilometers, before eventually relenting. Deceuninck – Quick-Step once again assumed responsibility, putting in a phenomenal amount of work on the first two thirds of the stage. One by one, Kasper Asgreen, Dries Devenyns, Yves Lampaert, Michael Mřrkřv, Max Richeze and Elia Viviani turned themselves inside out riding in support of Julian Alaphilippe, protecting him and eroding the escapees’ gap by several minutes on Col de Montségur and Mur de Pégučre.
A brace of accelerations made a selection on the double-digit gradients on Pégučre, but Julian responded present and easily made it over the top of the first-category ascent, as the group hurtled down on the descent, less than three minutes behind the remnants of the break. Then, on Prat d’Albis (11.8km, 6.9%), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) was the first of the favourites to show his intentions, going clear with more than five kilometers to go.
Alaphilippe matched that attack, but when his countryman went again, he began to suffer in the driving rain which only added to the difficulty of the closing kilometers. A combination of tremendous willpower and guts helped the 27-year-old Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider soldier on and limit the losses as the race left the Pyrenes behind and prepared for the last rest day.
The first Frenchman in 34 years to spend 11 days in the maillot jaune at a single Tour de France edition, Alaphilippe possesses more than a minute and a half over the riders completing the podium at the moment and remains in high spirits: “I want to thank the team, because they did a great job to control the race and protect me. It was a very hard day, and I expected that, and my goal was to remain in the lead. I am happy I could do that and although I’m aware that the third week will be a very tough one, I just want to enjoy every moment of this great Tour. Until then, we have a rest day, and I look forward to it, to training with my teammates and seeing my family.”
::Deceuninck – Quick-Step - Press Release::
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