Julian Alaphilippe in 2022: 2x World Champion’s season so far
July 14, 2022
Photo taken from official @alafpolak1 Twitter
Julian Alaphilippe is probably one of the most well-known puncheurs of the modern peloton. With victories in races such as La Fleche Wallonne, Milano-Sanremo, Strade Bianche and numerous stage wins in the biggest stage races on the professional cycling calendar, it seemed like nothing can stop 2 times World Champion. Sadly, a nasty injury did and in this article, we will go through the current, 2022, season of Julian Alaphilippe and see how it went before the injury, during the recovery period and how it is playing out after his comeback.
Julian Alaphilippe’s official starts in 2022
Here is a list of all the races that saw the current World Champion on the start line. If you compare it to the previous year, it was a usual rollout of the season, with some early action in France, followed by a stage race to get into racing after the off-season. After that, Julian Alaphilippe started his Belgian classics and monuments bender- a #1 priority for every classics specialist and puncheur.
Data powered by FirstCycling.com
Without further ado, let’s dig deep and review the current World Champion’s season, starting from the first races back in February.
Exemplary performance in the early season
Being a puncheur and classics specialist, his early season performance was powerful and promising as expected. In Tour de la Provence, back in February, he showed spectacular early form and finished 2nd in the general classification and won the points classification. Later in February, Julian started to settle into his usual classics schedule by competing in 2 early French spring classics where he finished 5th in Drôme Classic. This was a good boost of confidence before an iconic Strade Bianche, a race which he has won in 2019 and finished 2nd in 2021 just after Mathieu van der Poel, who lay down an exemplary attack and took a victory.
Hitting a deck in Strade Bianche
With the race’s usual slow rollout, things went sour for Julian and the majority of a peloton with 100 kilometers to go. There was a crash, which took World Champion down. With the abandonments flying left and right after the incident, Alaphilippe was brought back to the peloton by Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team riders and everything seemed splendid until 50 kilometers to go. Tour de France winner, Tadej Pogačar, opened a small gap which then turned into a bigger one, and even for World Champion, the pace was too high. Looking at the footage, it looks like Julian bonked after that effort to get back into a peloton. He helped Kasper Asgreen and then called it a day with 22 kilometers to go, although he was an official leader for a wolf pack. Later on his Twitter, Julian Alaphilippe reported back pain after a non-voluntary visit to fields during the race.
A mass pileup caused by loose gravel and strong wind in Strade Bianche
Period before the big crash in Liège-Bastogne-Liège
After Strade Bianche and possibly a back injury, Julian competed in Tirreno-Adriatico where he was an outside pick, while his teammate Remco Evenepoel led the wolf pack. “Not visible” is probably a correct term to describe the World champion’s performance, after which he contracted bronchitis and fever, missing an upcoming Milano Sanremo- a race which suits him well. Alaphilippe finished 3rd in 2017 and 2nd in 2020, with the route rarely changing for Milan Sanremo, he might have finally stepped on the highest podium step.
In April, at Itzulia Basque Country, Julian won stage 2 and came 2nd on both stages 3 and 4. At the end of April, Alaphilippe came to compete in a race that should probably be named after him, as he won 3 out of 4 last editions- La Flèche Wallonne. With a hectic day in the saddle, the French rider finished 4th on a day.
Tragic injury at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and recovery
And finally, we arrive at this year’s tragedy for Julian Alaphilippe- Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a race which is desired by every puncheurs on their Palmarès. With 60 kilometers to go, there was a mass crash that took out a lot of favorites, including 2 times World champion, and nearly an entire squad of EF Education-EasyPost. Julian Alaphilippe hit a deck so hard, that reportedly Romain Bardet of Team DSM first went to check on the French rider before even thinking about getting back on his bike. With a fractured shoulder blade, two fractured ribs, and a collapsed lung, Loulou was hospitalized and it looked like it might be an end to the 2022 season.
3 weeks later, Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team made an update, saying that the pneumothorax he suffered as a result of the crash has completely healed and that the French rider is making a recovery. Looking at a Twitter feed, on June 12th, Alaphilippe tweeted he had just completed 3 weeks of altitude training, so there might have been a day or a couple on rollers before hitting a road for good.
A hit below the waist was when the current World Champion was not selected for Tour de France, a race for which he has a strong emotional connection:
I knew it was going to be a very difficult decision for the team <..> At the same time, I understand it, because I don’t want to start myself if I’m not at my best level. I want to wish my teammates all the luck and know that they will do everything they can to have a fantastic Tour. Now I’m going to refocus to get back into my best shape as I’m motivated to ride a strong second part of the season.
At the end of July, the wolf pack will be led by a World champion in Ethias-Tour de Wallonie, a 5 stage race, which will suit the puncheurs profile well. This year’s edition seems to pack more punchy climbs than previous ones, therefore we should expect Julian to make some moves or even win it given that he has made a full recovery according to Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team.
Further down the road, we have Clásica de San Sebastián, which Julian Alaphilippe has won in the past. I expect podium places for Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team riders, such as Remco and Julian himself, as a race has quite a grippy pinches along the route, especially towards the end of it. Currently, the schedule for a French rider ends with Tour de l’Ain and La Vuelta ciclista a España, where we can expect to see him win some stages and help his general classification teammates. This will be a great opportunity to see Julian Alaphilippe’s condition before the World Championships in September.
World Championships prediction
Although the course itself is punchy and might suit Julian to some extent, with the 2022 season he had so far, I don’t see him competing for top podium places. Previous world championships editions were hilly as well, but this time climbs are too steep and maybe a bit too long to punch your way up top. I predict that Alaphilippe will do his best to stay relevant in the race as long as possible, but if the main group remains too big towards the end, they will filter him out in one of The Mount Keira loops.
That’s it for now. Despite one of the worst seasons so far for a current World champion, Alaphilippe has made a speedy recovery from his injuries and seems to be back on track. French national road race championships was a good indicator of his return and we shall see how he does in the upcoming races that suit him well on paper. What do you think? Let’s discuss this in the comments below!
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