• Julian Alaphilippe celebrates in the rainbow jersey after winning the men's road race at the 2021 UCI Road World Championships (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Julian Alaphilippe is struggling to come to grips with his victory in the men’s elite road race overnight – his second successive triumph at the UCI Road World Championships.
SBS Cycling Central

27 Sep - 11:53 AM 

The Frenchman launched his first attack 60 kilometres out from the finish, and again on the Smeysberg, before accelerating up the Wijnpers and towards the Leuven line.

It was an aggressive performance from the 29-year-old; one borne out of a self-confessed relief that his time in the rainbow jersey was over.

“If you know me, I use a lot of energy in a race, because I love to attack,” Alaphilippe said.

“I love when there’s movement in the race, but when you have the rainbow jersey, everyone is looking at you.

“And when you’re not so good, everyone destroys you, because you have to win every race because you’re the world champion.”

“To be honest, it was an incredible emption to win last year and wear the rainbow jersey all year,” he added.

“I wanted to enjoy it, and give my all to honour the jersey, and that took a lot of energy.

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“Coming to the worlds, I was almost happy that the year was over, even if it went quickly, because I could re-start on other things, other objectives, albeit with the idea in a corner of my head to do well today and assume my status.

“That’s what I did, but I need some time to realise what I’ve done, because coming here, I never imagined I’d be leaving with the rainbow jersey.”

By taking out the title in Belgium, Alaphilippe became the 13th rider to defend the jersey at the first time of asking, and the first Frenchman in history.

It’s an accomplishment that hasn’t yet sunk in for the Deceuninck Quick-Step star, who will now don the rainbow for another 12 months.

“This is something special – for me, for my career,” he said.

“To be honest, I still don’t realise I’m here with the jersey. For me, last week I was just enjoying every kilometre and feeling happy just to be with the French team to do a beautiful race.

“And I just won. I think I need time. It’s another special emotion.”