Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) has taken confidence in his form after placing third on Mont Ventoux on the queen stage of the Tour de la Provence.
After a long-range breakaway on the opening day and a crash ahead of a punchy finale that might have suited him on stage 2, the world champion provided a reminder of his all-round ability on the race’s key mountain test.
Although the route didn’t head all the way to the summit of Mont Ventoux, the climb to Chalet Reynard still measured nearly 15km, with an average gradient of more than 7.5 per cent.
Ivan Sosa was the solo winner on the day, while his Ineos Grenadiers teammate Egan Bernal skipped away from Alaphilippe late on, but the Frenchman was still satisfied with third place.
“I am pretty happy with my shape. Today was a good test and I can be content with how I did on a hard climb that commands respect, even though we didn’t go all the way to the summit.”
After Alaphilippe’s teammate Davide Ballerini, the overall leader, was dropped early on the climb, he joined forces with youngster Mauri Vansevenant, who set the tempo when Sosa made his decisive attack.
Alaphilippe then made his own move, and only Bernal could follow, although Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious) later made his way across. Alaphilippe was well marked by Bernal, who then launched his own attacks nearer the summit.
Alaphilippe finished three seconds behind Bernal and 11 seconds ahead of Poels.
“Having Mauri by my side in the last kilometers helped a lot and I am very proud of the way he rode, he was so strong and impressive and deserves to be eighth overall,” Alaphilippe said.
“We showed again why we are the Wolfpack and, at the end of the day, I have no regrets. It’s a good result, one that gives me confidence for the next goals.”
With one largely flat stage remaining, Alaphilippe lies third overall, 21 seconds behind Sosa and two seconds behind Bernal.