Liège-Bastogne-Liège : Comment Julian Alaphilippe flirte avec la Doyenne depuis 2015

Liège-Bastogne-Liège : Comment Julian Alaphilippe flirte avec la Doyenne depuis 2015

Between Alaphilippe and the Doyenne, the game of seduction has been going on since 2015. And “Loulou” has still not passed the ring on his finger in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. It is not for lack of having come close to triumphing during the Monument Ardennais, of having run it with the costume of a big favorite, or even of having thought to win it. Sunday, Alaphilippe will try his luck for the seventh time. Here is what his first six tries gave.

2015: The time of promises

The context

Arrow Walloon

Alaphilippe was still reassured: “I’m not on the street full either”

YESTERDAY AT 7:50 PM

Julian Alaphilippe approaches Liège-Bastogne-Liège with the status of a phenomenon. He has just made a sensational debut at the Flèche wallonne, only dominated by the master es Wall of Huy: Alejandro Valverde. The 22-year-old Frenchman did a spectacular job overtaking, when he seemed doomed to a role as Michal Kwiatkowski’s teammate and at most a joker. Can he do as well, or even better, towards Liège?

The result: 2nd

Good, very good even. But frustrating, even more so in hindsight. Alaphilippe still finished 2nd, still behind Valverde at the top of his game. He raises an arm in disappointment, his face contorted with effort. At least the Quick-Step knows that it holds a jewel, which was present in the end of a longer race than the Flèche (253 km against 205.5 km) and more exhausting by its scenario.

What he missed

A little experience, perhaps. But faced with such a Valverde… it is above all the absence of the Spaniard that he would have needed.

It was April 26: In 2015, Valverde offered himself a Monument by beating Alaphilippe in the sprint

2016: Dog Time

The context

Julian Alaphilippe is still not the world reference. But he is gaining momentum. Eighth in the Flèche Brabant, 6th in the Amstel, 2nd in the Flèche (behind guess who…), he is one of the favorites, just like Valverde (you guessed it?), defending champion, or his teammate, Dan Martin, winner of the event in 2013.

The result: 23rd

Anecdotal. He signed his worst Liège that year. In dantesque conditions, with even snow at the rendezvous, it is the outsiders who carve out the lion’s share. Wout Poels wins in the sprint ahead of Michael Albasini and Rui Costa. Valverde (16th) and Alaphilippe (23rd) cut the line in the first “peloton”, 12 seconds after them.

What he missed

A more classic race configuration and better weather would probably have allowed him to calibrate against “Bala”.

Four years ago: Poels won his only Monument in Liège

2018: The sacred… collective

The context

After missing the 2017 edition through injury, Alaphilippe returns to Liège in a new configuration. This time, he was the boss on the Mur de Huy during the week: he finally got the better of Valverde there. What does not change is the quality of the Quick-Step leader’s team, where he is not the only one with ambition.

The result: 4th

It is not necessarily the one expected but the atmosphere is still good, in the bus of the Belgian formation. Alaphilippe took fourth place, 39 seconds behind his right arm Bob Jungels, who soared to victory with his blessing, as he told us on the Cycling Show (see video).

What he missed

If he had been a leg above everyone else, the result might have been different. But rather than looking for what Alaphilippe lacked, we must note what worked for him, collectively. The fact remains that the Monument which seems to suit him so much continues to refuse him.

“Julian tells me on the radio: ‘Go, go!'”: Jungels recounts his coronation in 2018

2019: Very far from Fuglsang

The context

That year, all eyes were on two men: Julian Alaphilippe and Jakob Fuglsang. The Frenchman is 26 years old, is a double holder of the Flèche Wallonne and will soon reach maturity. He is expected as the future king of the Ardennes. The Dane is living his best season, at 34 years old.

During the Strade Bianche and the Flèche, the duel turned to Alaphilippe’s advantage. During the Amstel, the duo was crunched by a stratospheric Mathieu van der Poel. This time there will be no match.

The result: 16th

He is not up to it. When Fuglsang accelerated 15.6 km from the finish, in Roche-aux-Faucons, Alaphilippe was in his wheel. He was the first of the big names to step aside. Sixteenth at 1’29”, “Loulou” finished in the same group as a promising youngster: Tadej Pogacar (20, 18th).

The Milan-Sanremo winner was wrung out by rainy conditions that he doesn’t like, but also by the accumulation of races: “I’ve been riding since the end of January, in Argentina. It is therefore logical to lack freshness, to be tired. I’m going to take a step back to know what to do next year.”

What he missed

A lot of energy, according to him. No regrets for him, on D-Day, but a program perhaps to rethink… especially now that he has embraced the Primavera.

This time, Alaphilippe did not have the legs: his failure on video

2020: His most ubiquitous failure

The context

Glorious. Julian Alaphilippe was crowned world champion at Imola a week earlier. This is his first race with the rainbow jersey on his back, since he skipped the Flèche Wallonne. The French puncheur is still lulled by the sweet euphoria of the planetary coronation, he carries around with a sign as large as his confidence is great.

The result: 5th

It changes several times in a few minutes. In his mind, on the one hand: Alaphilippe thinks he is the winner before realizing that Primoz Roglic has grilled his politeness. In fact, above all: his second place turns into fifth, after a logical downgrading. The world champion did not keep his line during his sprint, disrupting those of Marc Hirschi (2nd) and Tadej Pogacar (3rd).

What he missed

A hint of phlegm and more in the home stretch, certainly, as if the intoxication of power had won him a time and he needed a few more days to digest the obtaining of the iridescent tunic. Three will be enough to give his ceremonial outfit the shine of a victory, the following Wednesday during the Brabant Arrow.

In 2020, Alaphilippe’s huge fail: arms raised too soon and downgrading

2021: Came across a great Pogacar

The context

Six months after his funny miss, Alaphilippe can already put things straight and his rivals in step, in Liège. During the week, he again climbed the Mur de Huy as a monarch. Fortunately, moreover, because his start to the 2021 financial year had been only correct. He shares the status of favorite with the Slovenian duo Primoz Roglic – Tadej Pogacar.

The result: 2nd

Disappointing, as Alaphilippe only envisages victory, in the big race that suits him best among those missing from his record. The world champion was overtaken by Pogacar in the last meters of a five-man sprint which he finished in second place.

What he missed

Not much. He was beaten by a Tadej Pogacar who needs no introduction, a year later, and whose science of timing was brilliant in this sprint. Six years after his second place in 2015, Alaphilippe no doubt hopes to have “closed the loop” of his unsuccessful approaches to the Doyenne. It’s time for him to conquer her.

And Pogacar beat Alaphilippe on the line: the breathtaking final in Liège on video

Liege – Bastogne – Liege

In 2020, Alaphilippe’s huge fail: arms raised too soon and downgrading

A DAY AGO

Liege – Bastogne – Liege

The winner of Liège may not have run the Flèche

A DAY AGO

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