Cycling

Julian Alaphilippe on 2022: ‘It was the toughest season of my career’

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Every time Julian Alaphilippe stood up in 2022, he was knocked down.

The two-time defending world champion roared into the season full of ambition, but a series of high-speed crashes nearly derailed his second full season in the rainbow stripes.

Crashes at Strade Bianche, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Vuelta a España saw the handsome Frenchman far from his flamboyant and competent self.

To rub salt in the wounds, then he contracted COVID-19.

“It has been the toughest season of my career. I have never been 100 per cent during a race in 2022,” said Alaphilippe. “I always trained hard, gave my best and fought to come back every time, but having to start over and over again was harder than the crashes themselves.”

Despite clashes at Strade Bianche and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Alaphilippe fought back each time to win again. In April he won a stage in Itzulia País Vasco and in July he won a stage in the Tour de Wallonie.

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There was no turning back from his third crash in the Vuelta, and although he rode in world championships and Italian classics, Alaphilippe was nowhere near victory again.

In terms of wins with two, 2022 was his poorest season since 2017.

The French pickguard He thanked his family and teammates for their support, but admitted high-speed crashes during the 2022 campaign will shape his future.

“When it’s dangerous on the descents, I’m a little more afraid of falling than before. It doesn’t mean that I’m going to brake more, but I have to admit that I feel the danger a little more,” he said in a team video. “When you fall a lot, you are more careful than those who have never experienced a big accident and a long recovery.”

Alaphilippe targets a return to the Tour de France, Tour of Flanders

Alaphilippe went down at Strade Bianche and hit the ground harder at Liège. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

His future is secure and he has two more seasons left on his contract with Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, set to race as Soudal-Quick-Step in 2023.

Alaphilippe, now healthy and pain-free, already has his sights set on 2023.

“I don’t have any pain anymore when I’m on the bike, so I’m not afraid to race and nothing will stop me in 2023,” he said. “I can’t wait to fight again to win big races.”

A return to the Tour de France, which he missed out on in 2022 for the first time since his 2017 debut, and a heavy focus on the spring classics will be on the cards.

“I wasn’t ready. If I had been on the Tour, I surely would have. group every day,” he said of the Tour. “It was not in my interest, or the team’s, so it was the best decision not to participate.”

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