Julian Alaphilippe insisted he had no regrets after finishing second to Mathieu van der Poel at Strade Bianche, accepting there was little more he could have done to beat the Dutchman on the dirt roads and steep climb up to the finish in Siena.
True to character, Alaphilippe was one of the most aggressive riders in the race, helping to force the key selection on the Santa Monte Maria dirt section and then cracking Wout Van Aert on a steep dirt sector with 23km to go. The Deceuninck-QuickStep rider was able to go across to Van der Poel when he attacked with 13km to race but didn’t have the power and speed on the final climb up to Siena.
Alaphilippe finished five seconds down on the flying Dutchman, with Bernal taking third at 20 seconds.
“Mathieu was very strong, so I have no regrets,” Alaphilippe said post-race. “Of course I would have preferred to win but in the end I am happy to be on the podium in the rainbow jersey. I am not disappointed, because I really gave everything. I already had cramps in the last kilometres. Mathieu was simply better, so I have to congratulate him.”
Alaphilippe was alone in the key selection after fellow Deceuninck-QuickStep leader João Almeida was slowed by a mechanical. He took Davide Ballerini’s bike before taking his spare bike, but the chase cost him in a key moment of the race.
Almeida finished 37th at 6:48 back, with Kasper Asgreen 25th at 6:32.
However, Alaphilippe’s gutsy ride gave the Belgian team their sixth top-three finish in seven years at Strade Bianche, a result that keeps them at the top of the UCI World Team rankings.
“Strade Bianche is always spectacular and hard and today it was not different,” Alaphilippe explained.
“The tempo was high in the peloton long before the Monte Sante Marie sector, so I knew it was going to be a tough day. When the strong leading group went clear, we all worked well together and managed to build a nice gap. Then, I put in a couple of attacks, Van der Poel did the same inside 20 kilometers to go, and I joined him together with Bernal and the three of us kept powering to the line.
“On the steep finish in Siena, I did everything I could do and this meant coming runner-up. But I feel that the shape is getting where I want, so that’s good, it makes me look forward to the next races.”
Alaphilippe will now ride Tirreno-Adriatico, then Milan-San Remo and the cobbled Classics in Belgium.