Procycling

RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE

Just when it seemed all creativity, character and variety had been crushed out of the Tour de France by science, numbers and negative tactics, Julian Alaphilippe arrived and blew through the race like a whirling dervish. The Frenchman coloured in an event which had greyed to monochrome, and it’s symbolic that in the last two editions, he’s spent more time wearing either the polka-dot or yellow jersey than his team kit. His effervescent confidence and aggressive riding are compelling to fans and media, and he hasn’t developed the same ennui that has descended on Peter Sagan’s interactions with the press, or the studied diffidence of Vincenzo Nibali. These two riders have excited fans with their panache, but sometimes give the impression off the bike that it’s all a bit of a grind.

I remember grabbing Alaphilippe for a word at the second rest day of the 2018 Tour, when he was already one stage win to the good and looking like a fairly safe winner of the polka dot jersey. He was dutifully sipping from a can of Maes 0.0%, the non-alcoholic beer brand which his Deceuninck team had announced as a sponsor that day, and I suggested to him that being a French rider doing well in his home race must bring an increased level of attention. How was the pressure affecting him, I wanted to know. The French word for ‘pressure’ and ‘beer on tap’ is the same: pression. Without

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