“Not 100%” but “not rotten either”. This is how it looks Julian Alaphilippe when defending son world champion rainbow jersey on the road, when the line race, on the night of Saturday 24 to Sunday 25 September. The Frenchman comes forward with an ambiguous feeling: on the one hand the desire to “give the maximum” to keep his title, on the other the prospect of relief that the loss of his tunic, and the weight that accompanies it, would represent.
The rider will be less favorite than usual after a dark season, marked by his spectacular fall in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and another in the Tour of Spain, which he left on August 31 with a dislocated right shoulder. At a press conference, Wednesday September 21 at Wollongongthe reigning double world champion spoke about his ambitions, his state of mind.
How are you doing after your crash in Spain?
Julian Alaphilippe: How are you. I arrive with a lot of motivation, rather relaxed. I’m not in the best condition, that’s for sure. The last time I was on a race, I got injured. Once again, almost once too many. I’m definitely not 100%. I’m not going to be rotten either, but I’m not going to arrive with the same guarantees as in previous years.
Will you still have a leadership role like in recent years?
I am one of the leaders but I am not the only leader and that suits me very well. Everyone knows my form. There are riders from the French team who have performed better than me in recent weeks, and to whom the race corresponds very well too. I will be very happy to give the max for them. It is by playing on the collective that we will go far.
With all these falls, do you feel apprehensive on a bike now?
I don’t hide the fact that at times, when it’s going fast, when you’re not far from the fall, I’m maybe a little more scared than before. Because I don’t want to take one back, as I took too many this year. I’m still a little marked by Liège of course.
Did this fall in Liège-Bastogne-Liège make you put things into perspective?
Yes. It is especially my little family and my little boy who have done me a lot of good in these very hard times.
It’s been a complicated year. Several times I wanted to put the bike in the garage and be already in 2023.Julian Alaphilippe
at a press conference
But it was also a bit of a year of resilience. I came back every time, despite the setbacks. And here I am, with my friends and I take advantage of every second, every kilometer.
Do you feel less pressure than in previous years?
I don’t feel the pressure at all. Where I had a little pressure was in Imola, at the 2020 Worlds. Last year, I was motivated and I raced to win but I was ready to lose too. I had zero pressure and I have even less here in view of my last weeks.
But victory remains the goal?
Of course we come for a result and it will be the icing on the cake if we keep the jersey. I’d be really happy to relive what we’ve been through for the past two years. And I think I would be even happier if one of my colleagues wins.
Because it would also be a relief to let go of the rainbow jersey?
I’ve been a bit torn between two feelings lately. On the one hand I say to myself: look forward to next year so that I no longer have to wear the jersey and that I can, in quotation marks, become a normal runner again, less known, less in demand, more relaxed. But on the other hand, this jersey is such a dream, something so huge, that I can’t leave it like that. But he asks a lot, maybe also because I take things to heart and I give a lot too. Whatever happens, whether I have the jersey for a third time or no longer have it, next week I will be very happy.