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Can Julian Alaphilippe Win The Tour de France?

It’s a question posed on social media and in the email inbox and the the short is answer is he could but it’s a tough ask and would ruin half the fun, both his and yours. But one day he might like to try, partly to know if he can but also to fill his boots with cash.

First it’s not a new question. After he won two stages and took the mountains jersey in a convincing manner last year it was something people were asking. Why not come back in 2019 and try to compete directly with the big names on the big climbs? Now more are asking the question seeing that he was so close to a podium finish and even won a time trial. What could he do in 2020?

The simple answer is that he could become a regular contender. Replay the Tour de France again, only this time with him saving energy rather than spending it in the first ten days, add a team able to offer more support in the mountains and he’d have been fresher for the final mountain stages. Of course this counter-factual could mean he might never have taken the yellow jersey to start with and so maybe he wouldn’t have fought as hard in the Pyrenees or the time trial… but let’s park that inconvenient idea.

Now cast forward and imagine him returning with a little weight loss – easier said than done – he could turn himself into a grand tour contender with an improved power-weight ratio. A contender mind you, not a winner. Maybe he could pick off some intermediate goals like Paris-Nice or the Tour de Suisse and of all the grand tours the Vuelta is his best bet given it features shorter climbs and doesn’t venture into high altitude, he’d thrive on the rampons more than the cols.

Can you see him sitting back in Epernay and riding on the wheels for three weeks, perhaps making only one attack all month, like Steven Kruijswijk or Emanuel Buchmann? That’s even harder to imagine. It’s not his style and he’s said as much too. He has the physiology for attacking racing it’s also his mentality, for him cycling is often a game and a form of entertainment where launching attacks, exploiting descents and pleasing the crowd are very much his conception of sport. It’s fun on the Poggio but do it in France, on home roads, in July in front of giant crowds and it must be even more gratifying. If Alaphilippe stays as he is he can look forward to a career of taking the yellow jersey early in the Tour and keeping it for days. Perhaps not as long as this year but ASO’s thinking on course design is to include some punchy, hilly finishes in the opening week and with time bonuses it’s just the terrain where he thrives. Why change a winning formula?

Well, one reason is to get paid a lot more. Alaphilippe is the current world number one and recently re-signed with Deceuninck-Quickstep in a deal that saw Patrick Lefevere stretch his budget more than usual while Alaphilippe turned down higher offers. One day he might like to take the highest offer and it’s all well and good winning in Sanremo, Liège and wearing yellow but being a Tour contender is one way to boost your salary. It’s obvious yet not widely mentioned that grand tour contenders are among the best paid riders in the sport. The likes of Richie Porte and Jacob Fuglsang are thirty-something riders who have never won a grand tour but collect salaries superior to proven classics contenders and successful sprinters, for example reports say Fuglsang was holding out for a €2.4 million contract which is 20% more than Fernando Gaviria signed for when the Colombian sprinter took stages at the Tour and the yellow jersey. Now perhaps Fuglsang won’t get what he wants but the point isn’t to personalise things down to two riders more to illustrate how being a contender can make you richer than a proven winner. Alaphilippe can parlay his current contract into something even bigger by announcing a bid to become a grand tour contender.

There’s no hurry. When he sat down with France Télévisions in Paris after the final stage of the Tour de France he was asked the obvious question of whether he’d come back to win the Tour de France and his response was refreshing: “I want to discover the Tour of Flanders”. In some ways Alaphilippe’s interest in not aiming for the Tour de France could be good for cycling too as he’ll bring an audience with him, up to seven million people in France tune in each day for the Tour de France but many are unaware of the Tour of Flanders which is lucky to get one million in France.


Not everything has to revolve around the Tour de France. Over the years we’ve seen many riders asked if they could target the Tour de France as a new challenge, think Fabian Cancellara, Tony Martin and Peter Sagan. Now it’s Alaphilippe’s turn and his answer is “non“… for now. He’s happy winning the classics and racing the Tour in the way he wants and it’s a successful formula, he tops the UCI rankings. We’ll see if he can expand his range though, would he think about taking, say, Paris-Nice as well as Milan-Sanremo? Could he start to think about the Vuelta or would this compromise his party plans for July? He’s 27 years old and doesn’t have to decide but once past 30 and he loses some of his punch then the economic incentives could see him think more and more about the overall classification.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Richard S Monday, 5 August 2019, 12:53 pm

    Without wanting to sound wise after the event I had considered Alaphilippe France’s best bet at Tour glory out of the current crop for the last couple of years. That is to say, I thought he had a better chance of winning than Bardet and Pinot. I based this on the fact that he can time trial while they cant. Admittedly on the back of this years Tour Pinot seems to probably be a better bet. I think Alaphilippe would be pushed to win the Tour. He’d have to focus completely on it and also need a favourable route, a bit of luck and one of those years where you have a relatively weak field (like this year!). Historically though you’d say he’s the prototype rider for Paris-Nice, its only recently they’ve started putting genuine summit finishes in. If they ditched those he could lock it down in the same way Sean Kelly and Laurent Jalabert used to. I also think Warren Barguil could do better and push for a podium. There were times in the first week this year where he appeared to lose time on purpose, and he seemed to take it easy in the TT, but he still ended up 10th.

  • Jamie Mcteague Monday, 5 August 2019, 1:36 pm

    You obviously don’t understand cycling, that was his best shot, no way is he allowed in a tdf breakaway next year, or ever tbf

    • Digahole Monday, 5 August 2019, 2:22 pm

      Why would he need to take time in breaks when he can hang with the GC guys in the mountains and beat them in the TT?
      He took 50 secs total and in breaks on stages 3 and 8 (so he would have only slipped one spot lower on final GC… 6th after Landa… if we discount break time).
      But the point is that if he didn’t expend that energy he might not have had the bigger time loses in the mountains.

    • Davesta Monday, 5 August 2019, 2:23 pm

      Leaving aside the bizarre suggestion that our host doesn’t understand the sport, let’s not forget that Alaphilippe’s ride was no way comparable with, say, Tommy Voeckler, who was ‘gifted’ minutes in an early breakaway.
      Alaphalippe gained time a la pedale – perhaps the GC teams will chase harder in the future, but everyone knew he would attack in Epernay, and nobody could follow. The same was true in St Etienne, except Pinot was wise to it – this time the GC teams did chase hard, but they floundered and didn’t make the catch. He won the Time Trial – no gifts there! And he even extended his lead in the Pyrenees, despite showing his first cracks…

      On a similar route in the future, there’s no reason he can’t be in the same position again going into week 3…

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 5 August 2019, 2:23 pm

      Nobody allowed him to ride away on Epernay though, everyone knew he was going to attack but still pulled it off. This time they’ll chase harder but he could easily take a stage win, time bonus and get the yellow jersey again and again in the coming years.

    • Pilgrim Monday, 5 August 2019, 3:49 pm

      @Jamie – There’s a comments approach that’s right for Cycling News and one that’s right for here. You’ve chosen the wrong approach for here.

      • oldDAVE Monday, 5 August 2019, 10:40 pm

        I have a feeling @Jaime may have been replying to Richard S and accidentally not pushed reply…

        I may be being too kind, as it’s not a polite way to start a reply anyway, but people have done worse…! I read Richard’s post with my jaw to the floor as to how he thought Alaph was a better prospect than Pinot before this Tour! Sky weren’t interested in Pinot because they thought he wasn’t Frances best prospect.

        I have to admit I completely dumbfounded why Sivakov choose to race under a Russian licence despite being able to race under a French one – you would be a hero for life in France winning the Tour, and he’s a real proper contender in five years.

        • Rico Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 4:34 am

          I would guess that Sivakov races under a Russian license so he can have leadership opportunities while racing World/Olympics where otherwise he would be required to support Pinot/Bardet/Alaphilippe.

          • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 9:17 am

            It’s a complicated question, you don’t just choose the licence for opportunities but it’s an expression of his heritage as well but the short answer is that being Russian for cycling purposes does get him selected for the Worlds and Olympics. He’s interested in changing to France after but the rules say you can’t represent your new country immediately but have to serve a time period of sitting out two editions of the worlds. In an interview he seems to have read this as sitting out two years but it need not be so long if he times the application, ie submit the forms in the summer and he’d have a year (but two worlds) out.

        • Tovarishch Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 9:16 am

          Sivakov approached the French authorities with a view to riding for France but received absolutely no encouragement. I am not sure he will get any better support from the ФВСР but it did seem rather short sighted of the French.

          • oldDAVE Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 4:12 pm

            I didn’t know he could switch to France.

            Makes sense now.

            The reason I found it so odd was simply because he’s an upcoming rider with GT prospects on the best team, there’s a chance he might be the first French rider to win Tour if the cards fall correctly… and being that Frenchman, whoever he is, is going to be incredible, so I was confused with Sivakov would give up that opportunity.

            But if it’s to race Worlds/Olympics and then switch I guess that makes sense.

            Although will it be similar to Froome then where he’s not a very celebrated French rider as he’s represented a different country previously?

            And yes, French Fed giving him no encouragement seems bonkers, why an earth was he even reaching out in the first place, they should have been all over him…

            I guess I find the case very strange as at this point he’s best young possible-French rider since Pinot. I hope Pinot is the first to win the Tour anyway, so then Sivakov can be the first Russian! That would be a nicer story.

          • Lukyluk Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 5:20 pm

            I’m not what you would call an “insider”, but I don’t think that the French cycling federation cares all that much about the success of their top athletes on the road, tbh.

            Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to spit on them indiscriminately, I think it has good success in quite a few of its missions (good young rider development, event organization, decent anti-dopijg efforts, probably the best insurance scheme for athletes I’ve heard of in our sport…) but they seem to be content with leaving the teams handle the top of the sport, and they definitely don’t have much of a “supporter” vibe, if anything they take pride in their neutrality. They won’t even give much help to riders who are struggling to find new contracts, like we’ve seen the Swiss fed do, for instance (showing them in national teams, pieces written on UCI website, etc.)

            All this to say, I’m not surprised to read that they haven’t gone out of their way to make a “new signing” in Pavel Sivakov.

            (The cycling commentators on L’Equipe TV, however, have not missed his dual citizen status, and refer to him as “Franco-Russian” in pretty much every sentence. This is only one of the ways in which they are openly supporting French riders and *only* French riders, to the point of parody. Think Kirby, but worse, because there’s at least 3 of them on air at once.)

  • Sean Monday, 5 August 2019, 2:19 pm

    There’s no way Alaphilippe can win Tour of Flanders. Which means he probably will, or at least podium.
    Surely he’d need to put on a bit of weight though?

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 5 August 2019, 2:22 pm

      He won’t be “top favoriet” but is a strong contender, if you can win Sanremo you can win Flanders and he’s got the explosive jump for the steep climbs but showing up and winning the first time is a big ask. Still his team will help.

      • pjotr Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 11:31 am

        Doesn’t Alaphilipe have to gain weight to be able to ride in Flanders as a strong contender?
        He does not seem as muscular as many of the winners and favorites of the last years?
        PCS says he is at 62 Kg, previous winners like Bettisol and Gilbert are listed with 69kg or more.
        (Maybe the weight data is not exactly accurate, but it give an impression of the orders of magnitude.)

      • JT Friday, 9 August 2019, 9:16 am

        It would be one of the greatest races ever seen if Vincenzo Nibali could win Flanders. I guess it could still happen.

      • Chris_SK Monday, 12 August 2019, 8:53 am

        Looking at how DQS have won it in recent editions, they could put Alaf in an earlier move and sit on the chasers. It was very effective for Terpstra & Gilbert… while Asgreen nearly pulled it off this year. The attitude in that chase group in recent years has been so passive / unwilling that anyone up the road gains a stronger chance of pulling off the unthinkable from a long break (cca 40-65km to go) vs. watching the favorites and waiting for the final lap of OK-Paterberg.

  • noel Monday, 5 August 2019, 2:19 pm

    If Geraint Thomas can do it, then Alaphillippe can too…

    • Anonymous Monday, 5 August 2019, 2:36 pm

      And maybe Thomas de Ghent too? Seriously – similarities with Alaphilippe in his attacking style, good climber, strong TT. But the fact that he won’t change his style makes it more exciting for us.

      • shadowyoshi Monday, 5 August 2019, 7:34 pm

        De Gendt is a good comparison. Remember that he has a Giro podium on his record (along with the Stelvio stage win in that race) for all his attacking riding.

  • Digahole Monday, 5 August 2019, 2:30 pm

    Already looking forward to next year’s “Can Remco Evenepoel…” edition 😉

    • JeroenK Monday, 5 August 2019, 8:28 pm

      And MvdP the year after when he completes his goal of an Olympic gold medal in MTB and decides to do a Dumoulin and slim down to GC power to weight…

      It seems new generation cyclists with incrible talent are coming one faster than the other. It’s incredibly sad we lost one today in Bjorg Lambrecht.

      • Irungo txuletak Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 10:59 pm

        I feel too bad about bjorg. Such a young guy with all the future beyond.

    • Tovarishch Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 9:19 am

      Or perhaps Tom Pidcock, although he’s probably too old 😉

      • PaulG Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 11:26 am

        My Dark Horse is Eddie Dunbar, 22yo, in the mould of Evenepoel….An Ineos classics rider…???

  • Stig Monday, 5 August 2019, 3:17 pm

    I think he should target the remaining monuments he has not won: achievable and would put him in rarefied company.

    • J Evans Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 11:57 am

      Yes, I’d much rather see him do this. Much more entertaining and interesting to stay the rider that he is and challenge in all sorts or races than become one of the many grand tour also-rans, which is in all likelihood what he would be.

  • Pilgrim Monday, 5 August 2019, 3:25 pm

    I always thought Dave Brailsford’s biggest “eff you” would be to take a French racer and win the Tour with him just to say “that’s how you do it”

    There was talk about Barguil when he was at Sunweb but perhaps Alaphilippe could be that man?

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 5 August 2019, 3:41 pm

      Think it’d be less of an “eff you” and more of a quest for popularity, Brailsford is a big francophile and this would have more people cheering for the team in July. They were interested in Pinot for some time too.

    • DAVID W COUPER Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 3:30 am

      Julian doesn’t have asthma which automatically rules him out of the Sky setup.

    • Martijn Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 10:29 am

      Except that wouldn’t end well for the same reasons Barguil at Sunweb didn’t end well: bad fit with the team culture. And Alaphilippe is maybe even more of an individualist than Barguil. Gaudu is perhaps a better potential French target for Ineos?

      • Chris_SK Monday, 12 August 2019, 8:56 am

        Does this mean they have given up on “the transformation” of Kenny Ellisonde?
        That 40s pull prior to Froome’s attack on Finestre showed he has what it takes.. he just need to train to do it for 40mins not 40s

  • DJW Monday, 5 August 2019, 3:52 pm

    Alaphilippe could, subject to concentration on a single goal, win the Tour. He has the required quailities but not – at least before 2022 – the required team. Lefevère’s strategy of winning multiple stages with diverse riders is so successful that he would surely be loath to abandon it for the all or nothing possibility of a maillot jaune in Paris. If Alaphilippe continues to impress then another team would surely offer him the budget and support for a post 2021 attempt, but would he want to abandon what he now has for that single shot?

  • GeorgeY Monday, 5 August 2019, 5:08 pm

    Alaphilippe doesn’t have to change his attacking style of riding, he’s like Contador and Nibali; if in the future he learns to measure his efforts better he can certainly become a great Gran Tour winner. That’s up to him to decide and I do hope he chooses this path because he will offer us memorabile and spectacular wins!

  • Wayne Monday, 5 August 2019, 5:41 pm

    Surely a rather large obstacle to this would be Bernal?! Can’t see him outperforming Bernal + team over 3 weeks, injuries and crashes aside. I like the idea of him going for Flanders, with the sun setting on Gilbert it’ll be nice to have JA reigning supreme in the classics.

    • Mancuniancandid Monday, 5 August 2019, 7:42 pm

      Yes I agree, the era of Froome has finished and the era of Bernal has begun, unless aso tailor a route for Alaphilippe it’ll be hard for him, but then aso will tailor a route for him in the next few years,

      • J Evans Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 12:00 pm

        I think Bernal has yet to show that he will be dominant for years to come – people seem to be assuming that because he’s young and signed to Ineos for years to come.
        His TT wasn’t that special and he didn’t dominate this race. No-one is suggesting that Pinot is a dominant rider and up until his injury he matched Bernal.

        • Anonymous Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 4:00 pm

          The tour wasn’t even Bernal’s target earlier this year. It looks ominous to me.

        • Larry T Wednesday, 7 August 2019, 8:36 am

          Same things were said about the TdF winner in 1997. This wunderkind was going to win LeTour every year for a decade as I recall.

          • Wayne Wednesday, 7 August 2019, 9:06 am

            I think 97 was part of a very different era but yes you’re right let’s not get carried away. And if Bernal has yet to point out he’s going to dominate grand tours I think he’s already shown he’s a better GT rider than JA. We can all argue the ifs and buts but the fact is he won and JA finished 5th.

          • Digahole Wednesday, 7 August 2019, 4:24 pm

            “And if Bernal has yet to point out he’s going to dominate grand tours I think he’s already shown he’s a better GT rider than JA. We can all argue the ifs and buts but the fact is he won and JA finished 5th.”

            A tad simplistic considering JA spent the early part of the year training to dominate classics while Bernal was doing mountain climbs at 3000m in Colombia. Put Bernal on Alaphilippe’s program and then race ‘em in the Tour if you want apple for apples. Not saying that JA is better, just that it’s not clear who’s got the most scope for improvement.

  • JaimeRoberto Monday, 5 August 2019, 6:24 pm

    “Now cast forward and imagine him returning with a little weight loss…”

    Yikes, when I saw him at the Tour of California a couple years ago, he was already really thin. So much so that someone in the crowd yelled, “Julian, eat something!” I don’t see how he could lose much more weight.

    • Richard S Monday, 5 August 2019, 7:26 pm

      He’s already 6-7 kilos lighter than the taller GC men such as Dumoulin, Froome, Thomas, Pinot et al. I’m not convinced weight is the issue, more like muscle fibre type and training.

      • PaulG Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 11:28 am

        He actually said he had too much ‘Fast Twitch’ muscle to be a proper contender…..!!!

        • RQS Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 12:03 pm

          This would be my take on it, based on previous editions of his performances in the Tour. His light frame and explosive power work well in a break against none GC riders (and non-pure climbers), but doesn’t have the sustained endurance to repeatedly use that ability for pure GC action.

          If JA was to be a contender he’d need to show up more in the one week races, and win. Certainly he has taken a step this year in the direction of a TdF podium.

          His performance seems to have bi-passed Pinot’s who I thought was a far more credible contender/winner (in more ways than one) until that injury he sustained.

          Perhaps the abbreviation of stages 20 and 21 would have worked against him, but I felt that he was certainly the bigger threat to Ineos than Alaphilippe.

          What I found frustrating was watching Kruijswijk failing to really attack his rivals. Since his breakout Giro performance he has failed to ignite in the same way. Though, of course, he’s a marked man now, but following his 2016 performance I have expected more from him. A Richie Porte in the wings as it were (harsh words)

          • Anonymous Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 12:17 pm

            Didn’t you spend most of the TdF, after the TT, telling us that JA was doping? Surely that would help.

          • RQS Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 12:33 pm

            Oh I haven’t changed my thoughts on that. But I’ve said my piece in that regard. That TT just wasn’t authentic. I’m brave enough to stand by that ‘anonymous’. We know riders game the system of both spot testing and longitudinal testing.

            I think that most other ITTs will yield a disappointing result for those that put Alaphilippe into their fantasy cycling team.

            Regardless of that, it’s a big swing to become a GC rider. My comments above are largely focused on his previous performances in any respect. When he wore the polka dots it was an impressive display of climbing, but not one which he was able to maintain. Stage 20 seemed to have him back to being himself.

          • J Evans Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 1:42 pm

            Unintentional anonymity on my part. You too are anonymous, by the way.

          • RQS Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 10:32 pm

            …..yes, because J Evans pins you down. There are very few posters who say exactly who they are. Even our host hides behind an alias. Given the permanent nature of the internet and the way comments can be used against anyone it’s a handy thing. But at least if you keep the alias you can be authentic, your comments aren’t faceless and you give flesh and bones to a nom de plume.

    • Larry T Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 7:56 am

      Gawd, aren’t there already enough eating disorders in this sport? This watts/kg formula is taking all the sport out of the sport and reducing it to merely a science experiment.
      The bikes have a minimum weight, are the authorities going to have to step in with a minimum body-fat measurement to prevent a peloton full of Froome lookalikes?
      OTOH my gearing restriction idea might be better as these “skeletons” would not have the power to turn over the kind of gears used by Coppi, Merckx, or even BigMig.

      • Richard S Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 8:45 am

        I like your sentiment but I think there is enough evidence at every level of cycling to prove that ‘power’ in cycling terms doesn’t all come from your muscles. It comes from your ability to absorb oxygen and turn it into energy. You won’t find anyone with more bandy looking legs than Wiggins but he could average 440 or so watts for an hour. There are plenty of talented kids beating fully developed adults at local TT level despite weighing less than their bike. Taking the weight off doesn’t mean you produce less power (thanks to modern sports science) it just means you get more speed for it, uphill especially. Bigger gears would penalise the heavy guys even more as they’d have to stand up on climbs and use up comparatively more energy supporting their heft.

        • Pelican VC Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 10:36 am


          As long as cycling includes riding uphill, power to weight ratios will be a determining factor in deciding races. It’s hard enough trying to produce more power, so reducing your weight is the only other choice available when trying to maximise that performance metric – that’s not the riders fault, it’s the ‘fault’ of the course designers. If we want bigger grand tour winners, we’d probably have to strip back the mountain top finishes and add more flat time trials – I’m not convinced many people would be happy with all of that (though personally, I love a TT).

          Secondly, yes, the Froome’s of this world might not look ‘normal’, but let’s not forget that these guys are utterly not normal (& I don’t mean that in the nefarious sense) – they’re the elite of the elite, so we shouldn’t be particularly surprised that they don’t resemble many of us couch commentators.

          That said, FWIW, Froome and I actually have similar BMI’s (I’m 183cm and about 64kg – he’s 186cm and about 65-67kg at race weight, apparently), and I don’t have an eating disorder – people just have a different anatomies, so could we please not bandy that around too nonchalantly. The difference is that Froome can produce over 400W for an hour at the end of a grand tour, thanks to his enormous aerobic system, and I…Well, I can’t do that for more than a couple of minutes. There are two parts to power to weight ratios after all.

          Lastly, on eating – science (power meters) has actually meant that training and racing load/calorie expenditure is far more quantifiable than ever before. Anyone who can read can now work out how much they need to eat. The days of simply eating as little as possible and training as much as possible are hopefully behind us – thanks largely to the coaches/teams/riders that have embraced scientific training and recovery methods over received wisdom.

        • Larry T Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 11:50 am

          Your last sentence is sort of where I was going with the idea – giving the naturally flyweight climbers (Pantani, Van Impe, Fuentes) an advantage over the stripped-down giants (BigMig, Wiggins and even Froome) when going up, so perhaps they can gain some time to lessen their disadvantage in the flatter chrono stages?
          I’m wondering if it’s these modern twiddly gears that allow these heavier riders to climb with the flyweights and might things improve with a restriction on them?

          • Richard S Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 12:18 pm

            It’s definitely changed things. Everybody ‘spins’ up climbs now because with the little gears you don’t need to stand. When standing weight is more of a disadvantage and your heart rate goes up much quicker (mine does anyway). Its harder basically. I bet even the Sky bots would struggle to hold a steady relentless pace stood up. So yes the gap between big guys and little guys on climbs has narrowed to the point where with super thin rouleurs like Froome and Dumoulin it potentially doesn’t even exist anymore and you need the crazy 20%+ slopes to create time gaps. .

          • Larry T Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 3:53 pm

            Richard S – your 20% slope idea is what I was getting at awhile back when the claim was made that half of France is no longer suitable for Le Grand Boucle.
            I think this IS a case of technology needing restrictions – same as uncontrolled technology has made too many F1 and MOTOGP racetracks obsolete, these twiddly gears let these stripped-down giants compete with tiny climbers while making tactics and skill far less important in determining a winner. I would love to watch more guys racing who look like Sagan than Froome and can’t help but think a lot of others would as well?

        • KevinR Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 11:15 pm

          Good response there Richard.

      • Martijn Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 10:36 am

        “are the authorities going to have to step in with a minimum body-fat measurement”

        Actually I don’t think that’s a bad idea. Of course such a rule would have to take into account that being thin is important for cycling races that contain long climbs, but an dangerously underweight rider should not be allowed to ride, the same way a rider who needs an opiate like Tramadol is not allowed to ride. It’s even more important for young riders whose bodies are still developing.

        • JeroenK Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 11:54 am

          I think it is a bad idea, as bodies cope differently with low body fat. Some are naturally thin and their immune and hormone systems works just fine, while others arrive in the danger zone much earlier. You cannot draw a clear line. Maybe an absolute bottom line that is bad for everyone is possible to determine, but that would be a bad signal. You do not want riders to aim for something like that.

          I’d rather test for markers for being in an unhealthy state, like cortisol elevation, regardless of the cause.

          • Martijn Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 2:08 pm

            I did some googling and I found Norway already has rules for this:
            “The recommendations say that an athlete’s BMI is not allowed to fall below 18.5. A woman is not allowed to have a fat percentage below 12, and girls under the age of 18 should not have a BMI below 14. For adult men the fat percentage limit is 5 per cent, and for boys the limit is 7 per cent.

            Menstruation must not be absent for more than three months in girls and six months in adult women. Bone mineral density is not allowed to fall, anemia must not be present (too low blood percentage), and the athlete must not use vomiting agents and laxatives to regulate body weight.”

            Most of that seems good policy to me, especially the bone density and anemia checks (I guess the blood passport already checks for the latter?) I do have serious doubts about the extra menstruation check for women, which seems overly invasive. (How do they check this anyway? Horror scenarios with sealed bags of used tampons/sanitary pads spring to mind.)

            I plugged the Wikipedia height and weight data of Chris Froome and Wout Poels, two of the riders most often considered to be frighteningly thin, into a BMI calculator and both are about 19.5, so still healthy according to WHO standards.

          • JeroenK Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 3:01 pm

            Don’t confuse ‘rules’ with ‘recommentations’ 😉

            Those recommendations seem very good to me, but you need very objective and fair measures to rule out anyone from competition. Bone density / anemia would be suitable. BMI, with its known pitfalls, would not.

          • Vegar Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 3:10 pm

            Re Martijn:
            The Norwegian recommendations are just that, recommendations, and can be enforced only when athletes have signed up for it (normally, it is included in the contracts cross country skiers sign with the national team: there they have health checks prior to competition, and too low body fat or BMI will have you withdrawn from competition. I do not know whether the limits set by the skiing federation is in line with the recommendations, however. I also heard rumours that some athletes with the power to negotiate have had it taken out (only rumours).

            The analogue to cycling would be if the teams had similar policies but this would be initiated and enforced on a team-by-team basis. Rules set by the UCI would probably be hard to enforce. Yet, other smaller and differently structured sports have rules and rigorous “testing”, see ski jumping for an example.

            That being said I would support policy of some sort. Eating disorders in pro cycling appear widespread yet as good as nobody talks about it.

          • Vegar Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 3:28 pm

            Just saw Brajkovic’s blogpost from earlier today: https://www.janibrajkovic.com/post/skeletons-in-the-closet

            Very insightful. Very distressing. But at least somebody talks about it.

  • jc Monday, 5 August 2019, 7:19 pm

    Rather than ask “can he win” to which the answer is clearly yes ( how likely is another matter ), ask “does he want to win” which as Inrng has pointed out is a rather different thing altogether. To aim to go from an all round top cyclist able to compete in the classics, stage hunt and maybe TTs (still somewhat of an odd result) to actually target a GC win at the Tour takes an awful lot of planning and support.

    Would Patrick Lefevre really want to change a winning strategy that has turned his teams into the most successful in professional cycling to chase after the yellow jersey in Paris? I doubt it very much. He has won acclaim enough times on the Champs Elysee with his sprinters and will do again.

    That means finding another team who would support it. Ineos? Seems unlikely no matter how much Dave Brailsford would love the adulation. AG2R or Groupama? More likely, it might suit their sponsors but would it fit with their existing plans and there would be a significant element of risk involved. Not sure I could see another existing team with the right set up to accommodate all this / have right sponsors but maybe there is.

    Surely a career similar to Sean Kelly or Tom Boonen is more likely? There is the Olympic road race in Paris to think about?

    • Digahole Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 8:36 am

      “Does he want to win?”
      I think one thing to take into account here is that JA has just had a taste of being the absolute darling of France – the center of his nation’s attention. I guess that would have been quite something for a showman of his character. He could win all monuments twice over and never have that experience again.
      My bet is that he goes for it, but not before some more seasons of chasing monuments, classics and mountain jerseys.

    • PaulG Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 11:30 am

      Patrick Lefevre said, after the Tour, that he couldn’t give JA a GC team until 2021, at the earliest…..!!!

    • Richard S Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 11:41 am

      A more likely fit as a team to go all in for Alaphilippe should he wish to target the GC at the Tour would be Total-Direct Energie I would have thought? They’re French, they have bags of oil money but no big name French rider and no one of any note bar Terpstra , they want to move up to World Tour and reportedly they tried to sign him this year before he resigned with DQT. Typically savvy Lefevre to lock him down before the Tour. I wonder if he now regrets resigning with DQT so soon? Total could fund a team of domestiques fully dedicated to him, and a really nice kit to wear while doing it too! I wouldn’t be all that surprised if Alaphilippe does one more year of classic hunting with DQT before another go at stirring the pot at the Tour with no realistic hopes of winning, before having his contract bought out and moving to Total.

  • Larry T Monday, 5 August 2019, 8:36 pm

    “Not everything has to revolve around the Tour de France” How I wish that was true. People who read this blog probably see beyond LeTour but too many look at it like NASCAR’s Daytona 500 – they pay attention to one race and decide it’s the only one that matters 🙁
    PS- +1 for Pilgrim’s comment to @Jamie.

  • John Irvine Monday, 5 August 2019, 9:00 pm

    “In some ways Alaphilippe’s interest in not aiming for the Tour de France could be good for cycling too as he’ll bring an audience with him, up to seven million people in France tune in each day for the Tour de France but many are unaware of the Tour of Flanders which is lucky to get one million in France.”

    There’s so much talk about inequality in team budgets – salary caps and revenue sharing. But what about the massive inequality between races? There’s the TdF and everything else. Instead of asking how Ineos can dominate through big spending, why not ask why ASO can dominate the calendar and prestige?

    Not really sure what my point is, but it’s really struck me how the Tour is the HC among Cat 3 and 4 cols.

    • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 9:08 am

      ASO has a strong position but uses some of its resources to keep other races going, the likes of Paris-Nice and other races probably wouldn’t exist. The same with RCS, it makes money on the Giro (and almost as much on the Dubai Tour) but loses it on Tirreno-Adriatico. But there are few calls to regulate this, a few team owners used to go on about revenue sharing until they discovered there are few revenues to share and since many races run at a loss.

      • Larry T Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 10:37 am

        Thanks for pointing this out to all the wannabee Jonathan Vaughters’ out there.

  • Gerrard O'Brien Monday, 5 August 2019, 9:53 pm

    Alaphillippe was a great entertainer something that has been missing for long time. I was perturbed that he beat the specialists in the timetrial and finished so fresh whilst they were ’empty’.

  • jc Monday, 5 August 2019, 10:39 pm

    It is all too easy to forget what a dangerous sport cycling is, it provides entertainment for many of us but the risks to the riders are often forgotten.

    • KevinK Monday, 5 August 2019, 10:58 pm

      I don’t know what percentage of cycling fans are also cyclists, but the percentage has to be much much higher than it is for almost any other sport. Those of us who ride road bikes on the public roads, or MTN bikes on any but the tamest trails, know this is a dangerous sport as well as a dangerous recreation.

      And I hope this reply doesn’t come off as contentious. I’m sure you, like me and everyone else reading this blog, are feeling mournful right now.

      • MRJ Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 1:56 am

        For sure, today’s news had me questioning the wisdom in going out for my ride tomorrow. But… I can’t imagine life without the bike. Ergo, double-down on the precautions. Stop at all red lights and stop signs. Ride defensively – assume that car won’t stop. And hope there are no drunkards or texters out in the morning.

        Each of these incidents (I have in mind Antoine Demoitie and Michael Goolaerts as well, among others) is earth-shattering for their friends and family in their own unique way. So sad. I hate these days.

        • Lukyluk Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 5:56 pm

          I remember that in the days following Kivilev’s accident, I just lost all motivation to go out riding. The roads around where I lived are pretty safe, and of course I was always aware of the danger in theory, but hearing of this tragedy just killed all pleasure I could have on a bike, for many days. When Michele Scarponi died, I had the same reaction. I just couldn’t get myself to pick up the bike for a ride, or even for a commute in relatively safe parts.

          Yet I don’t think I felt scared. Looking back at it now, I think I simply just associated cycling with something sad, instead of what I usually felt on the bike: the sense of freedom that the combination of effort and speed creates, and the passion communicated by watching spectacular rides on TV or reading about the heroic stories of the athletes.

          There is such a strong association we make between our experience with the sport and the one we see on TV or read about in the newspaper. We come to know the actors of the sport, we associate them with our emotions and experiences, just like we would associate a friend with the location you visit if you take a vacation together.

          I think a key reason why we love the sport is this strong empathy we have with the riders. We are delighted by a good performance, we punch the air when they win, we have a lump in the throat when we see them forced to abandon a race. It’s a small comfort to me to remember that the immense sorrow I feel today is a side-effect of how wonderful this sport is at sharing emotions, the best ones as well as the worst.

          None of this, of course, will ease the pain of those who loved Bjorg and mourn him today, his family, his friends, his teammates. I hope they find some comfort in knowing that the reason that we, strangers, are so gutted by his passing is because, through this sport, talented cyclists like him have given us so much joy.

          • MRJ Wednesday, 7 August 2019, 7:25 pm

            Very well put, Lukyluk. Thank you for your comment.

      • Larry T Thursday, 8 August 2019, 5:18 pm

        How ’bout people who play golf and also (fall asleep) watch others play golf on TV? But then you can argue is golf a sport or merely a game?
        I think your danger angle is overblown. How many people are killed while cycling each year? Seriously injured? How many golfers suffer heart attacks or strokes on the golf course? Or get killed in car crashes on the way to/from the links? Ruin their livers by enjoying themselves too much at the “19th Hole”?
        But I’m a fatalist – when my number comes up I hope I’m out cycling rather than at home on the toilet 🙂

  • Gerrard O'Brien Monday, 5 August 2019, 11:18 pm

    To win the Tour you must time trial well and climb well AND have a team to shelter and protect you. The route is usually shaped to suit a rider ASO would like to win. Next year it won’t be designed for a pure climber like this years Tour. Bernal will have to survive cobbles and hard flat stages something previous Columbians were sidelined by.Alaphillipe was ‘on another level’ said Brailsford and if that is replicated plus a bit next year and the climbs are within his scope, with a supportive team it could be what the French have been praying for.

    • Richard S Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 8:47 am

      Nobodies biting

    • Digahole Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 11:36 am

      Francois Thomazeau on the cycling podcast points out that if ASO do tailor the the route for a French victory, they are spectacularly unsuccessful! Ha ha.

  • Mark Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 8:44 am

    Theres a lot of talk about Alaphillipe requiring a very specific route to win the tour but missing the fact that this route was actually a very non typical route and how tailor made for the style of rider Bernal is. Bernal made all his time gains on competitors when they were climbing at altitude above 2000m, as did Alaphilippe make his losses. Often the tour route barely goes above this altitude for many KMs that coupled with the fact there was the smallest amount of time trialling in recent years. Alaphillipe wouldn’t need a special route he’d just typical route and in the shape he was this year he should easily make the podium, the question is without all that altitude would Bernal?

    • Martijn Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 10:41 am

      What would the Tour tailor made for Alaphillipe look like? A long team trial (as long as he rides for DQT), two medium length, hilly ITTs, as many finishes on steep murs and H1 cols as possible and very few HC climbs above 2000 m?

      • Digahole Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 12:04 pm

        How about Alps / Pyrenees earlier than usual in the race, then a punchy TT and a couple of classics style stages final week? Final week in the Massif Central / Vosges for the bonus of a Pinot home ground advantage.

        • Richard S Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 12:09 pm

          A final week of classics style stages so that it was the climbers/GC men who had to defend would be a great idea.

    • Ecky Thump Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 11:51 pm

      Bernal won Paris – Nice don’t forget.
      I think if you look on Thomas as the template for Classics-type rider to GC, Alaphilippe would have to start winning these prestigious week-long races first rather than make a straight transition.

  • Irungo txuletak Tuesday, 6 August 2019, 11:19 pm

    What makes alaphillipe a great rider?
    When asked whether he will come back for GT in the tour, he answered that he wants to discover Flanders.
    A french man saying that after a Tour where he did incredibly well? Respect.

    • Anonymous Wednesday, 7 August 2019, 1:42 pm

      You’ve also unwittingly identified the reason why a Frenchman hasn’t won the tour in several decades… they’re under too much pressure to be everything to everyone.

      • oldDAVE Wednesday, 7 August 2019, 3:26 pm

        Little rude to say @Irungo identified it unwittingly…

        Anyway – I don’t think pressure is the big thing here… of course it has made a difference at times when it’s a Top10 rider going for the No1 but since the 80s France have almost never had a proper contender let alone an Indurain/Froome/Contador (whatever you think of their respective records), this isn’t pressure, it’s somewhere between bad luck and bad organisation…as much from the federation as the teams.

        You’d have thought there was enough money in French cycling (given there are four teams regularly competing) that a few might have come together to create a super team so they can buy the best riders and train the next French champion a la Sky/Ineos. This hasn’t happened strangely. It’s also apparent that French teams were very slow to move with the times and put a focus on TT’ing and developing their riders in the best way.

        I’m not sure you blame the teams though as they all have individual financial imperatives that make these things difficult. The Federation though has clearly been slow in adapting to modern cycling and youth development, unlike their football friends at Blomfontaine…

        Which brings me to my final question – why is there no Blomfontaine type school for cycling somewhere in the Alps? (or maybe there is?) If France wants to win the TDF so bad surely there’s funds somewhere to follow their football model and create one next to the Grenoble Velodrome near the Alps? I bet with a school like that they’d also be able to revolutionise the diversity in the peloton which would be nice. The first black winner of the Tour de France can’t come soon enough, and if he were French all the better.

        • oldDAVE Wednesday, 7 August 2019, 3:27 pm

          Clairefonatine sorry!!

        • Larry T Wednesday, 7 August 2019, 4:37 pm

          Based on your opinion on French cycling I’m wondering where you were in 1998? Do you remember the “cycling at two speeds” debates? Would someone (sponsor or rider) who is French even want to win Le Grand Boucle if they had to do it the Brailsford way?
          Wasn’t it just last year Mr. Froome was booed, whistled at and worse at LeTour?

          • oldDAVE Wednesday, 7 August 2019, 11:40 pm

            I’m oldDAVE not youngDAVE – was alive well and kicking in ’88 and yes remember it well.

            You’re comment though – just to check – are you saying no Frenchman would win it the Armstrong way (in which case I assume you’re throwing Brailsford and Indurain in with that although I’m happy to wait for conclusive proof before jumping on that one)… as i remember a fair few French riders being on that train…

            Or are you saying the boring TT way? As again the French have had a fair few champions along these lines also, even if Anq wasn’t particularly loved.

            Personally I think you put a little to much stock in how pretty the win is (drugs aside) and have a feeling the French would take a (clean) win any which was they could right now.

            Anyway… I think you’re also reading to much into what I’m saying – my argument is simple: the French want to win. The French collectively have more cycling money than any other nation. The French have already cracked Football youth development. Why not plough Brailsford/BritishOlympic-esq cash into a cycling Clairefontaine?

            Simple. Money = problem solved. Champion with 20years.

          • Larry T Thursday, 8 August 2019, 7:05 am

            oldDave- You summed it up with your money comment. I don’t believe the French want to win that way. They tried to clean up the sport post 1998/Festina (which had some French stars you might remember + a guy whose numbers far exceeded those of BigTex but who refused to dope and was hounded out of the sport) hence “cycling at two speeds”.
            No doubt they very much want win their national tour again, but I think (hope) they believe there’s more to sport than your crass commercial summation.

          • oldDAVE Saturday, 10 August 2019, 7:40 am

            I never quite know if you read a whole comment Larry?

            I definitely mentioned drugs and if I gave any indication the French would want to win this way that wasn’t my intention – although I think that was clear – and yes I get they did not try to clean things up, but I guess I’m slightly talking on a different tangent here?

            You think it’s crass (do you realise that’s quite a direct way of saying stupid?) but that seems a little flippant to me, as I’m not really even talking about commercial concerns – I’m simply saying France would like to win, and whilst you may be right there are French people/fans out there who want to win a certain way (I think they are fewer than you might imagine) there will also be many who just want to win (clean) whatever way they can. And whether they are politicians/money men or whatever you would have thought in the last 30years enough would have got together to create a Clairefontaine-esq scheme with the explicit goal of supplying a TDF winner in the next 20years.

          • Larry T Saturday, 10 August 2019, 8:55 am

            You wrote: “Simple. Money = problem solved. Champion with 20years.”
            If that isn’t a definition of crass commercialism I don’t know what is. I’ll end this by pointing out YOU made the assumption that winning the “Brailsford way” meant doping while I was implying something more like your simple equation included above.

          • oldDAVE Saturday, 10 August 2019, 11:02 am

            Okay. I actually don’t understand what point you are trying to make, and I don’t think you understand mine either. So I guess we leave it at that. As far as I understand money is every aspect of life however much we like to pretend those that use it successfully are shrewd and all knowing, usually delivers success, especially so in sport, and I just would have thought France somewhere somehow would pile in the cash to win their crown jewel event again. Nothing particularly commercial about it even if you’d expect someone would benefit somewhere along the line, and if that’s crass so be it. There’s countless examples across every sport of big money delivering big winnings, even if it takes a few years and misfires.

          • Larry T Saturday, 10 August 2019, 3:15 pm

            Please understand I don’t want this to be a pi–ing contest either, but “There’s countless examples across every sport of big money delivering big winnings” is my issue. It seems that you are claiming that if enough money is thrown into a project, success is somehow assured. Is that correct? If so I’d say there are countless examples of this NOT working but more important IMHO this idea is not very sporting even if might result in winning. If you show up with a bicycle (or moto, or car, etc.) that costs 10X as much as the next competitor’s, in my mind your victory (assuming you win) is devalued. The competition is not designed to determine who has the most money or who is willing to spend the most, it’s to determine who has the skills, ability and character to win.
            That’s been the case in every sport I’ve competed in, whether it’s racing bicycles, motorcycles or running. In all of those money did NOT automatically = success, no matter how much you had. It’s the job of sporting authorities to make sure this is always the case.

          • oldDAVE Saturday, 10 August 2019, 7:39 pm

            Last comment from me on this.
            I don’t there’s any p’contest here it’s just a simple disagreement.

            I feel like you’re talking with your heart, we all want to say money doesn’t rule but I lean towards the thinking that if you drill down into the real stats, which are more obvious in sport than other fields as results are clearer – you’ll find for every story where the plucky underdog came through there are ten where the money won out.

            Sport is kept vaguely interesting by there being a little doubt but really across the board of every sport I’ve ever followed those who spend the most win eventually – Ineos being just a current example in cycling *(I realise the difference between trade teams and national teams it’s just a quick example but you could say Real Madrid, Manchester City, Aussie Olympic team in 2000, Chinese in 2008, British in 2012, LaVieEnClaire, Chelsea in 2004 etc etc). Yes it needs good management, but money usually attracts that eventually anyway.

            I just figure a lot of people in France want to win a Tour *(I would love a French win) and creating a model similar to their football success wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

  • Pejo Wednesday, 7 August 2019, 12:02 pm

    So much of the modern stage race is about the right team with the right grand tour prospect. While JA remains at a team like DQS he will be supported by a team that can attack, chase, sprint, time trial and (to a reasonable degree) climb. It has organisation, structure and a winning mentality. Now whether it wants to sacrifice it’s strength across all road cycling fields in pursuit of grand tour success is very much up for debate as it could mean resting riders in the lead up to the TdF who, on their standard race calendar, could win.
    I don’t see this happening any time soon. As others have mentioned, if JA moved to another team, they could build a team around putting him on the podium, however none of those that have strength in depth are French and those others that do have strength all have grand tour podium finishers on their rosta. Throw in a team time trial and any GT hopeful is on a back foot if they can’t be competitive.
    I guess what I’m saying is that, while DQS is a good fit for JA, team support for him in the high mountains would be a critical factor in any future success and in a team fighting battles on all fronts, it is unlikely to be as effective as it needs to be.

  • Paolo Friday, 9 August 2019, 10:10 am

    Hi, did I miss the last part of the 1989 recap…? In any case, keep up the good work!