• Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) to wear yellow during the 100th anniversary of the maillot jaune debut at the Tour de France. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
A nation 'dares to dream' as Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe proudly continues his stint atop the podium as the Tour de France celebrates 100 years in yellow.
Cycling Central

19 Jul 2019 - 9:14 AM  UPDATED 19 Jul 2019 - 9:31 AM

It seems only apropos on a day the Tour de France celebrates a centenary of the maillot jaune, that the prestigious yellow jersey currently resides on the back of a Frenchman.

The UCI's top-ranked rider in the world, Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep, is set to spend his ninth day atop the leaderboard tucked in the aero position wearing a yellow skinsuit during Stage 13's individual time trial, which coincides with the 100th anniversary of the jersey's debut.

“It’s historic to wear the yellow jersey on its 100th anniversary and on Friday it will be a very special moment for me," said Alaphilippe. "As a Frenchman, to sport the maillot jaune in an individual time trial will be one of the most beautiful moments of my entire career.

"Having the yellow jersey tomorrow motivates me to hurt myself even more than usual and you can be sure that I will push my limits while enjoying every single minute of it."

Alaphilippe's Cinderella performance at this year's Tour has a nation on the edge of its seat with French daily L'Équipe contemplating "if we were to dream" as Thursday's headline. Cycling pundits are starting to compare the 27-year-old from Saint-Amand-Montrond to compatriot Thomas Voeckler's improbable 2011 performance that saw the now-retired Frenchman spend 10 days in yellow before ultimately finishing fourth in a race won by Australian Cadel Evans.

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But for the three-time Tour stage winner, who won two stages last year en route to a mountains classification, to match Voeckler's stay in yellow, he will first have to defend his lead over the 27.2 kilometres against the clock in Pau on Friday.

"I'm going to continue to give it everything," said Alaphilippe. "As I've said, anything now is just a bonus. With the yellow jersey on my shoulders,I think I really have a good reason to hurt myself tomorrow. I'm so motivated, so happy. Whatever happens tomorrow, it's been great, but I just want to go as deep as possible and defend the jersey with honour."

Alaphilippe, who first took yellow following a Stage 3 victory in Épernay before loaning it to Stage 6 winner Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) for two days, he has already done reconnaissance of the route, which is undulating in the first 15km and ultimately flat in the final 12.

The 2019 Milan-San Remo winner will have to concede more than two-and-a-half seconds per kilometre to current race runner-up and defending champion Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos), who is currently 1 minute 12 seconds adrift.

"lt's a demanding course, it goes up and down, there's a flat section of around 8km at the end, then a very steep final kick, which will really finish the job of destroying the legs," said Alaphilippe, who has time trial wins at Paris-Nice (2017) and a fourth at year's Tour of the Basque Country.

"There'll be a lot of lactic acid, that's for sure. I think it suits me and, with the jersey on my shoulders, I'm really going to give it everything.

"I feel the pressure of France on my shoulders."