Julian Alaphilippe of Deceuninck-Quick Step is the new leader of the Tour de France, launching a solo attack 15 kilometres from the end of today's Stage 3 from Binche to Epernay and riding away to victory by 25 seconds from the chasing pack.
The latter part of today’s stage as the race returned to France had an Ardennes Classic feel to it, with four punchy categorised climbs inside the final 40 kilometres followed another uncategorised climb then a 15 per cent ramp up to the line.
Time bonuses were available on the last of those categorised climbs, crested 15 kilometres out, and the maximum 8 seconds were taken by Lotto-Soudal’s Tim Wellens just ahead of Alaphilippe, who took 5 seconds to close in on the yellow jersey.
The Deceuninck-Quick Step rider was 11th overall after yesterday’s team time trial, 31 seconds behind race leader Mike Teunissen of Jumbo-Visma.
With the yellow jersey dropped on that final categorised climb despite his valiant efforts to hold on, Alaphipippe’s targets were two other members of the Dutch team who were 21 seconds ahead of him – Wout van Aert, leading the best young rider’s competition, and Steven Kruijswijk.
His intermediate time bonus had already reduced that to 16 seconds, with another 10 up for grabs for the stage winner and with 5 kilometres left, and the chase taking time to get organised, the Frenchman had around half a minute on his rivals as he headed through the vineyards of the great Champagne houses to victory – and the yellow jersey.
Stage winner and new yellow jersey Julian Alaphilippe
It’s an incredible feeling. Before the Tour I was dreaming of this scenario, to take the win and the yellow jersey here, so I was really focused, although I knew it was going to be difficult.
I rode full gas and gave everything, and to take also yellow together with this victory is definitely one of the best moments of my career.
Defending champion Geraint Thomas
I felt okay really considering that the short, steep climbs aren’t necessarily what I love. I think we rode really well as a team and were always in a good position and communicating really well. It was a good day.
I think [hillier stages] helps settle the race down a bit. It’s better than five flat sprint days which are super nervous and dodgy. I quite like it.
I felt really good yesterday. Obviously today I wasn’t dancing up the climbs but I felt okay. I didn’t want to do more than had to be done. I’m aware that there were some bonus seconds up for grabs – but when you see some of the guys up there like Alaphilippe I’ll leave it to them. It was about just getting through it as best as possible.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.