Alaphilippe Soloes to Win in Stage 7 of Amgen Tour of California 2015
France's Julian Alaphilippe earlier today climbed to victory on Mt. Baldy for his Etixx-QuickStep team followed by a dynamic Sky Pro Cycling duo.
Etixx-QuickStep's Julian Alaphilippe today reiterated his remarkable talent when he soloed to victory in stage 7 of Tour of California 2015. Alaphilippe won the 128.7 kilometer stage, which concluded on Mt. Baldy, ahead of Sky Pro Cycling's Sergio Henao and Ian Boswell.
The stage victory also brought Alaphilippe the general classification lead with former race leader Peter Sagan of Team Tinkoff-Saxo Bank now ranked second, just two seconds behind the French race leader.
The Sky Team did its best to shed riders from the peloton with each passing kilometer heading into the 6.92 kilometer Mt. Baldy climb, which remains a significant challenge to many cyclists with its 9 percent average gradient.
Sky set a very high tempo, hoping to deliver Henao in perfect position to battle for the stage victory. With 13.7 kilometers to go the size of the peloton had already been reduced to about 25 riders. When the peloton entered the first of 15 switchbacks of the steep climb, more than half the riders immediately lost contact. At 5.9 kilometers to go just 12 riders remained in contention for the stage win.
Henao was the first to accelerate from the strong group of riders which remained and included Alaphilippe, Sagan, Boswell, and Joe Dombrowski of Team Cannondale-Garmin protected by POC. Only Alaphilippe would manage to stick to henao's wheel. The duo then attacked each other continuously for several hundred meters, before the winning move came with an acceleration from Alaphilippe about 4.1 kilometers from the stage finish.
Alaphilippe gained a gap of ten seconds on Henao, and then increased his lead by an additional five seconds going into the last two kilometers. Boswell bridged to his teammate at about 1000 meters to go, but it was too late for the Sky riders to catch Alaphilippe. The dynamic duo crossed the finish line 23 seconds after the stage winner.
Alaphilippe's victory earned him the yellow race leader jersey as Sagan's Tinkoff-Saxo muscles had proved unable to follow Alaphilippe on the climb. Sagan would cross the finish line 47 seconds behind Etixx-QuickStep's winner.
The victory is the second of Alaphilippe's professional career. He has been the revelation in the professional peloton in recent weeks, having placed 2nd in both Flèche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and placed 3rd in the Amgen Tour of California's stage 3 and yesterday's stage 6 individual time trial.
Alaphilippe, who wore the white jersey in today's stage for leading the best young rider competition, will be challenged with defending his Tour of California leader role in tomorrow's final stage 8, which is a fast 105.2 kilometer route from L.A. Live to Pasadena/Rose Bowl. The stage features a seven-lap finishing circuit. Mark Cavendish will start the stage in the green jersey as leader of the points competition. Sagan is hoping for a sprint finish, which has the potential of earning him both the general classification victory and the points classification win.
Commenting on his stage victory Alaphilippe told Roadcycling.com "I am super happy with this win. Today was a short stage and we were going full gas from its beginning. In the final I was there with the best guys. Henao was attacking, stopping, attacking, stopping. He was relentless."
"At a specific moment with about four kilometers to go I decided to try an attack, and see if I could improve my general classification position. I went, and Henao didn't respond immediately. When I saw he didn't follow me I thought he was playing with me, and that he would arrive at any second and pass me. But I kept going and going anyway. The last two kilometers were the hardest of my life. I gave everything to go the distance, my legs felt like they were exploding. In my mind I was always thinking that Henao could come back. But I was doing my best to stay away," Alaphilippe explained.
"It wasn't until the final 200 meters I finally understood I would win the stage. I enjoyed the moment, but I kept going 100 percent until the finish line. It was great and emotional for me, because this is just the second victory of my career. I won a mountain stage in the Tour of California, the first eight-day stage race of my professional career. For me this is really special.
"I am in the leader's jersey and of course it won't be easy to defend my two second lead in tomorrow's stage. There are intermediate time bonuses and time bonuses at the finish line. It is obvious Sagan is faster than me. I think we have to go with our original plan to try and win with Mark Cavendish. He's won three stages already and is going really well. Then we will see if this will defend my yellow jersey. The 2015 Amgen Tour of California is a race I'll never forget."
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