Tirreno-Adriatico: Stage 2

The rainbow jersey shines in Italy on stage 2 of Tirreno-Adriatico as Julian Alaphilippe outsprints a stellar field in an electric finale to take first victory of the year

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Tirreno-Adriatico: Stage 2

Julian Alaphilippe outsprints a stellar field in an electric finale to take first victory of the year

Photo: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images

UCI World Champion Julian Alaphilippe blasted to his maiden victory of the season after delivering a perfectly-timed attack in the closing 200 meters of Thursday’s stage to Chiusdino which saw him become the French rider with the most stage wins at Tirreno-Adriatico.

After another frenetic start with several early breaks, when the big one finally stuck, in it was Scotland’s John Archibald. The six of riders, well-matched, with a good work ethic, managed to open up a gap of just over five minutes. Together they managed to stay clear across the flat section of the parcour, but their advantage shrunk when the race entered the Colline Metallifere region.

At the foot of the start of the climb to Poggio alla Croce, the breakaway was absorbed and the stage entered another phase with the GC riders going on the attack with thirty kilometres to go. Deceuninck – Quick-Step delivered a tactical masterclass sending Giro d’Italia revelation João Almeida on the attack with over 25 kilometers to go along with the likes of Simon Yates, Mikel Landa and Sivakov.

It was a move which ended up giving more trouble to the peloton than they had expected. Going into the last ten kilometers, their gap stood at 40 seconds, forcing the bunch to chase hard in order to shut down that move on the Chiusdino climb.

With two kilometers to go, the chasers could see the leaders, but Almeida continued to make it hard for the bunch, getting out of the saddle and dropping his companions. The 22-year-old gritted his teeth as he rode under the flamme rouge, but the margin began to come down rapidly. Sensing this was the perfect moment to go, Julian Alaphilippe – who up until that point sat on the wheel of Kasper Asgreen and Zdenek Stybar – punched clear 200 meters from the line and held off both Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) as he celebrated his second win in the iconic rainbow jersey.

“We were in a perfect position with João at the front, which allowed me to stay focused on keeping my position. When it became clear he would get caught after Geraint Thomas forcing the chase, I went and gave everything, full gas until the line. This first victory of the season is a relief for me. It’s never easy to win in the rainbow jersey and to do it at this race feels amazing”, said Julian, whose first success of the season came in the country where he conquered the rainbow stripes last September.

Photo: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images

Alaphilippe, who became the fifth different Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider to put his name on the winners’ list this year, was full of praise for his teammates: “I couldn’t have done it without them, so a big thanks goes to the guys. Kasper and Zdenek took care of me on the climb, while João’s attack made it easier for us in the final. The day was a hard one, but the team did an incredible job and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome, especially as it came in the same country where I won this beautiful jersey.”

“In the final part of the stage there were many attacks and we decided to join in, knowing it would put the team in a better position for the last climb. With two kilometers to go I dropped the others, but I knew my chances were slim, with only a few seconds separating me from the bunch. At 300 meters to go, the peloton was closing in at a different speed, so it was over for me. I am glad Julian took the victory, because if he wouldn’t have attacked at the right moment, then another rider would have won. It was a perfect day for us and this gives us more confidence for the next stages”, Almeida added after concluding the day in seventh place, thus making his way into the top 10 overall.

Wout Van Aert: Van Aert was satisfied with his third place. “As expected, it was a very hard day today. When Geraint Thomas started the battle for victory in the last kilometre, I was already pretty much at my limit. Alaphilippe attacked and immediately put me at a few lengths. I squeezed out the best possible sprint. Third place was the maximum I could achieve in this sprint. I was able to pick up some bonus seconds. That’s a good thing in defending my leader’s jersey.”

“We were put under pressure by some guys who are dangerous for the general classification. The team was set up not to react to every attack. We stayed calm and didn’t let ourselves get caught out. The team controlled the race all day long. Fortunately, in the final I had two strong teammates near me who could speed up towards the end. Hats off to the team. I have confidence in this strong formation for the coming days.”

Tadej Pogačar: “It was a good day: the guys kept me in the front of the bunch and out of trouble. In the end we tried to set a hard tempo on the climb but the climb wasn’t so steep as to split the group. We waited for the sprint and I took 4th. It’s a good start but we’ll look ahead to the next stages which will be harder.”

In Paris-Nice, Brandon McNulty retains 3rd place overall and the white jersey as best young rider. Stage 5 from Vienne to Bollène (200.2k) was won by Irishman Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quickstep) with Alexander Kristoff finishing up in the mix for the sprint in 6th place.

Robert Stannard (Bike Exchange): “It was quite cruisy at the start and then it was really on over the hills in the final hour or so. It was nice for us to have Yates up the front for a bit, it took the pressure off a bit. The goal for me today was a top five result, so I was pretty close, but I think I did what I could do in the final there. I had the legs; it was just a matter of positioning in the final kilometre.”

Matt White – Head Sport Director (Bike Exchange): “Rob was our designated leader today and he was in good company, he finished sixth which is a really good result for him on a finish that which we knew suited him. It was a very aggressive last hour and all the pure sprinters where dropped and that is the type of rider Rob is; he is very fast and can climb quite well.

“Obviously with Simon, it was a disappointing result, we can’t hide from that. It is his first race here and it is the start of his preparation for the Giro d’Italia. He looked in very good shape on the final climb with the KOM and taking some time bonuses. We will now just refocus for tomorrow.”

Alex Aranburu (Astana) “It was a pretty fast race but I was feeling good and my legs were good. Three or four riders were ahead but behind, I was still controlling a little and really, I was not expecting the sprint. I thought Almeida would reach the finish line but I told Fabio to go full throttle, which really helped me stay up there. Then with 500 metres to go, I was a bit too far ahead. I decided to wait for the sprint and when they passed me, I was a bit closed in on the left in the corner. A fifth place is a bit disappointing because I think I had a good day and had great legs. But we’ll definitely keep trying.”

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