Julian Alaphilippe slumped into the space at the back of the Deceuninck-QuickStep van parked just beyond the finish line at the summit of Alto de Colorado, tired after the high-altitude and intense racing and also deeply disappointed after losing the Vuelta a San Juan race leader’s jersey.
The Frenchman had started the day in the white jersey, and Deceuninck-QuickStep seemed capable of defending it. However, a superb team performance by Movistar exposed the Belgian team’s weaknesses, and Winner Anacona used his early-season form to attack at the bottom of the final climb, stay away, win the stage and take the race lead.
“Of course it would have been nice to keep the jersey, but it’s over. The team did a good job, but Movistar was really strong and raced smart,” Alaphilippe said after wiping the fatigue off his face and quickly debriefing with his teammates.
He was not afraid to reveal what went wrong and what put the team on the defensive on the gradual climb up that was exposed to cross, tail and even head winds as it rose to an altitude of 2,656 metres.
“We had to be careful about Anacona attacking, and unfortunately he jumped hard when Remco was a little bit behind in the bunch and it was too late to catch him,” Alaphilippe said.
“After that we decided to keep the speed and chase, but it wasn’t enough to keep the jersey. That’s racing. Remco still has his best young rider’s jersey and he was strong. It would have been better if he’d got on Anacona’s wheel and sat there, but’s he young and has to learn things, he’s been strong all week.”
Racing into thin air
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