(Reuters) - Julian Alaphilippe insisted on Sunday that he would not be riding for the overall victory on the Tour de France after taking the yellow jersey -- but his rivals could be forgiven for not believing him.
Last year, the Frenchman claimed the jersey after just the third stage and while he also said on that occasion that he would not fight for the general classification, he was still wearing yellow on the morning of the 19th stage.
He eventually cracked that day and ended up fifth overall, way above his expectations.
Once he got a taste for it, Alaphilippe proved a tough nut to crack for the other main contenders, but this year should be different.
Alaphilippe, a one-day race specialist, has other objectives after the Tour de France in a season that has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 crisis.
The world championships are around the corner, followed in October by the Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, a ‘Monument’ classic he can add to his 2019 Milan-Sanremo title.
“It’s always special to be in yellow and I will defend the jersey, but I didn’t come here to win the Tour de France,” Alaphilippe told a news conference after taking his fifth Tour victory following one of his trademark brutal attacks.
“I’ve been feeling better and better lately and I really wanted to take a stage win here. It means a lot me and I had promised I would win on the Tour this year for my father, who died a couple of months ago.”
The win also gave his Deceuninck-Quick Step team something to cheer after their sprinter Fabio Jakobsen suffered severe facial injuries and spent several days in a coma after a freak crash on the Tour of Poland.
The team’s Belgian prodigy Remco Evenepoel had also broken his pelvis after an eight-metre fall into a ravine on the Giro di Lombardia.
“We haven’t been exactly lucky lately. This win is going to give us something to smile about,” said Alaphilippe, who added the team would “try again” on Monday to help their Irish sprinter Sam Bennett earn victory in the fourth stage.
“My goal was to win a stage and now everything that comes will be a bonus.”
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ian Chadband
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