Alaphilippe rides to impressive second in Il Lombardia
The 25-year-old takes France's best result in two decades, while Laurens De Plus escapes horrible crash with minor injuries.
Julian Alaphilippe opened Quick-Step Floors' account in this season's Monuments, with a solid and emphatic third place in Milano-Sanremo, and it was also him the one who wrapped it up, by taking a runner-up spot at the 111th edition of Il Lombardia. In the intervening period, Philippe Gilbert soloed to a historic win at Ronde van Vlaanderen, while Zdenek Stybar and Dan Martin finished second at Paris-Roubaix and Liège–Bastogne–Liège, respectively.
The Frenchman, making his penultimate outing of the season, rode intelligently and stayed attentive during the race, as the peloton got shattered to pieces on Muro di Sormano, the 1.9km climb averaging 15.8%, which was first used on the course more than half a century ago. When Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) – who went on to take the win at the end of the day – attacked on Civiglio, the penultimate hill of the day, several riders tried to follow the Italian, but they burned their matches and succumbed on the flat section between that ascent and San Fermo della Battaglia.
Julian bided his time and made a move on the final climb, dropping the other riders present in that first chasing group, before going full gas on the descent to Como, where Il Lombardia concluded after 247 gruelling kilometers and over six hours of racing, which featured 4000 meters of climbing.
"It's incredible, I wasn't expecting to be on the podium today. After the World Championships I kept my focus and arrived here very motivated. I did my best when Nibali attacked, but couldn't follow him, so I decided to ride my own tempo and see how that goes", said Julian Alaphilippe, who now boasts podiums at Milano-Sanremo, Liège–Bastogne–Liège and Il Lombardia. "I didn't win, but I can't say I am disappointed. To finish on the podium of a Monument is something special and it makes me happy to see my legs are so strong in the month of October."
Julian's season – which kicked off at the Dubai Tour, in February – will not end here, the Frenchman being on the team that next week will travel to China, for the inaugural Tour of Guangxi. It will be Alaphilippe's 12th appointment of the year, one which saw him take Paris-Nice by storm (with a stage win and two distinctive jerseys), before a knee injury forced him to skip the Ardennes Classics and the Tour de France.
Despite that setback, he returned determined to make the most out of the remaining of the season, and his ambition and hunger for victories propelled Julian to a maiden Grand Tour stage win at the Vuelta a España, auguring his solid display at the Worlds and in Il Lombardia.
The latter was a rollercoaster of emotions for Quick-Step Floors, as Laurens De Plus – who was in the front after attacking on the iconic Madonna del Ghisallo – went over the guardrails on a treacherous descent and fell straight into a ravine. The 22-year-old was immediately attended by the race doctors and teammate Dries Devenyns, who stopped his race to stay with Laurens, before he was taken to the hospital.
"My thoughts right now are with Laurens. I got news of the incident during the race and I can't tell you how relieved I am to know he is ok after that horrible crash", said Julian of Laurens De Plus, who escaped without any major injuries, but is undergoing examinations at the hospital in Cantù.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele