Prudential Ride London Classic: OPQS Plays Protagonist, Alaphilippe on the Podium
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team riders Gert Steegmans and Julian Alaphilippe made the decisive acceleration that split the peloton, which eventually led to a further split into a select group that decided 201km Prudential Ride London Classic on Sunday.
OPQS drove the split with 63.8km to go in the race. Due to a high tempo from Team Sky, the original breakaway was brought back with 75km to go, leaving it up to other teams on the front to either control the race or split it apart. OPQS chose the latter tactic.
An 11-rider lead group formed, including Steegmans and Alaphilippe. Other race favorites, such as Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team) and Ben Swift (Team Sky), were in the group. The riders in the selection were strong enough to build up the gap to the peloton, and it became increasingly clear that riders from the lead group would stay away until the finish line.
Alaphilippe decided to up the pace with 21.4km to go, and Gilbert soon accelerated to further split the 11-rider group. That action made it so only five riders were left ahead including Gilbert, Alaphilippe, Swift, Adam Blythe (NFTO), and Kristijan Koren (Cannondale).
Gilbert tried to attack again with 14.8km to go, and only Alaphilippe could stay with him. Howevever, with the gap to the peloton going up due to the move to 1'42", the chasers went full gas to try and catch back on. They were successful with about 10km to go in the stage.
Those riders went on to the finish line, and with all the riders looking around at each other in the final few hundred meters, Blythe launched early and was able to hold off the others for the win. Swift was 2nd, and Alaphilippe finished 3rd after an aggressive day for himself, as well as the team.
The 22-year-old French rider — in his first season on a UCI WorldTour team — was also 3rd and 2nd in two stages of Volta Ciclista a Catalunya earlier this season.
"I'm so happy to be on the podium of such a great race," Alaphilippe said. "The race wasn't easy, with a lot of climbs and rain as well. But I like that kind of parcours that fits my skills. In the sprint maybe I made a small mistake of not looking behind me to anticipate Blythe, but he was so fast that I am not sure it would have made a difference. Congratulations to him for the great victory. Concerning me, I will now focus on Tour de l'Ain where I hope to also do well."