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Gallery: Julian Alaphilippe triumphs in style on Tour de France opening day

Frenchman in a different class to claim yellow after incident-packed Stage 1 in Brittany

Martin James
27 Jun 2021

It simply had to be Julian Alaphilippe. On a 2021 Tour de France opening stage that looked designed for him, and was then served up on a plate by fantastic work from his Deceuninck-QuickStep teammates, Alaphilippe produced a fantastic solo attack on the final climb and never looked back, claiming the cheers of the French fans on the line and the Tour’s first yellow jersey in the process.

While last month’s Giro kicked off with an individual time-trial, the Tour continued its recent trend of a racing Grand Depart, and it was the right call.

The organisers dished up a feisty opener in terms of the parcours, Brittany turned up in terms of fan support and riding conditions, and Alaphilippe traded his rainbow jersey for a yellow one after a peerless ascent of the tricky final climb outside Landernau.

That fan support will have lifted the hearts of cycling lovers everywhere, but it unfortunately materialised in all the wrong ways in the first of two massive crashes that marred the second half of the stage.

A spectator, more interested in holding out a message for the benefit of the TV motorcycles than realising a Tony Martin-led peloton would be following close behind them, caused a massive pileup with 45km remaining that brought down Martin, Jumbo-Visma teammate Primož Roglič and many of those following.

Then a second major crash followed inside the final 20km with the peloton travelling at full pelt. The sight of Israel Start-Up Nation’s Chris Froome sitting on the deck was a major concern, as was seeing several riders being tended to in a ditch beside the road.

Froome eventually did limp to the finish, the true nature of his injuries as yet unclear. Plenty of others were delayed too – in fact barely 30 riders arrived at the base of the final climb all together at the front.

Deceuninck-QuickStep were of course just about all still there, as were most of the GC contenders.

Then with 2.3km to go, Alaphilippe made his move, and that was that. We probably should have seen it coming given the name of the deciding ascent translates roughly as ‘the climb of the wolfpit’ and QuickStep’s Wolfpack had done such an impressive job of putting the mercurial Frenchman in the perfect position.

But the way Alaphilippe simply rode away from his rivals and then only extended his lead as the metres dragged on towards the line was simply phenomenal. Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert, Roglič and Tadej Pogačar… their time in this race will no doubt come. But for now the Tour de France belongs to Julian Alaphilippe.

Here are the pick of photographer Chris Auld’s images from the stage:

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