Cementing his reputation as one of cycling’s most dangerous all-rounders, Julian Alaphilippe stormed to a dramatic repeat victory at the road World Championships this weekend, and he did it on clinchers!
“We wanted a race of movement, not to suffer. We were actors with the most beautiful reward.” Those words were uttered by French team manager Thomas Voeckler following Julian Alaphilippe’s rousing win at the World Championships. The French team animated the day, and set the table for a feast of racing that will be talked about for years. And while he may have mentioned not wanting to suffer, Alaphilippe and teammates made sure that there was suffering aplenty for everyone else. With at least four stinging attacks in the final 58 kilometers of racing, Alaphilippe left no doubt as to his form, and in the end rode the legs off the best riders in the world. Find the broadcast of this race. Watch it. Then watch it again. This level of dynamism and intensity is a rare and beautiful spectacle; it’s racing like this that we dream about. It was a perfect way for the road World’s to celebrate its 100th birthday.
In the end, Flandrian hometown hero and pre-race odds-on favorite Wout Van Aert summed up the race succinctly; “There’s two reasons we didn’t win. Alaphilippe was much stronger than the others and I wasn’t as good as I hoped to be.”
Seriously, if you haven’t watched this race, do it now.
This year, we kept our mouths shut here on the blog leading up to World’s. In the past, we have engaged in prognostication and prediction, only to have those predictions proven disastrously wrong. Naturally, given that we are in the business of making racing componentry that gets used by the best riders in the world, we want to talk up “our” riders. And, usually, we have some mighty dependable horses in the stable. Our bets, as such, should usually be considered reasonable. But then, year after year, we get our metaphoric horses shot out from under us. Last year, we kept our mouths shut, and Julian delivered. This year, just to be safe, we kept our mouths shut again. Bam! Lightning strikes twice, the first Frenchman to go back to back with the rainbow stripes on the road, and only the 13th rider of any nation to ever achieve this feat.
And, not only did he do the deed in dramatic fashion, he did it aboard our slippery fast Rapide wheels, and he did it riding clinchers. Many pundits have been heralding the death of tubed-tire clinchers for years now, arguing that they can’t compete with tubulars, or that tubeless is the only way forward. Alaphilippe, meanwhile, has won on them in the Spring Classics, and on Sunday flat out stormed away from everyone aboard a set of Rapides shod with 26mm Turbo Cotton clinchers. Don’t nail that coffin lid shut just yet. Rapides with clinchers are out there carving notches and counting coup in the most demanding competitive arenas on the planet.
Congratulations Julian! Chapeau. What you did on Sunday was spectacular and inspiring. We say it again: This was the kind of racing we dream about.