Champagne for Alaphilippe

Deceuninck's French attacked 15 km on the Mutigny ramps, won the stage at Épernay and snatched the jersey from Teunissen. Landa appeared in the battle.

The Tour left Belgium and entered France with a name on everyone's lips: Julian Alaphilippe. The analyzes indicated him as a favorite for the third stage, perhaps because the cyclist himself had marked this day with a red marker in the road book. "He is very stubborn," said his partner Enric Mas. And with that stubbornness, Alaphilippe fulfilled the prognosis with a colossal display, although not in the way we all thought, not on that hill where he could have imposed his skills of uphill finisher, auctioneer on the rise, but with an attack of 15 kilometers, when the ramps exceeded 12%. There he left alone, majestic, superior ... Towards the yellow jersey.

The Spanish fan also claimed a name: Alejandro Valverde. Almost a clone of Alaphilippe, but with 12 years more. Both adapted to the profile, to those last 45 kilometers with four levels of the fourth and third category, and above all to that final slope that led to victory in Épernay. The last and only time that the Grande Boucle had arrived here, in 1963, Federico Martín Bahamontes scratched a good rent without needing to wait for the high mountains. Among vineyards and slides, the region of Champagne always invites a toast to the adventure.

In the morning, Alaphilippe accepted the bet: "The goal is explosive, it suits me perfectly". What he did not reveal is that he was not going to wait that long. Nor was his team covered, Deceuninck, who took responsibility of the peloton to neutralize the five escapees of the day. Sagan's Bora also appeared in the head. Like the hyperactive Astana, where Fuglsang has already stamped his wounds, Omar Fraile wants the Mountain and Lutsenko dresses as a hunter. The fugitives Rossetto, Ourselin, Offredo, Delaplace fell ... Without remedy. But Wellens had one more gear and stepped on the accelerator thoroughly. Until Alaphilippe wanted.

The French of Deceuninck is a mixture of Valverde, Bettini and Jalabert, although it is mainly Alaphilippe, a sublime cyclist. He could have waited on arrival, but chose to attack further, at the hot spot of the route: the Mutigny, a 900-meter ascent with wild slopes. A wall of those that the classics like so much. He started there, in the hardest part, and he did not find brave men who persecuted his ride. He passed Wellens just after the top, which had an extra prize of eight, five and three seconds. The Tour has decided to put bonuses on some dimensions. A stimulus.

Behind there were attempts to take advantage of the turbulence and formed an interesting quartet: Landa, Woods, Lutsenko and Schachmann. For moments, we also got excited with Landa, as we did in the Giro. Land on the Tour. There will be more. When you handle a trident like the Movistar, you can play several cards, waiting for the ace to unclog. The Basque had nothing planned, but he was smart. And almost fishing in troubled river.

Ajeno to the chess of the rearguard, Alaphilippe advanced imperiously towards victory and yellow in the city of champagne. This year it had already won three big classics, Milan-San Remo, Flecha Valona and Strade Bianche, and stages in Dauphiné, País Vasco, Colombia and San Juan. A few weeks before starting the race, an amateur told me that with such an open prognosis and with a not so resounding route, Alaphilippe could also fight for the Tour de France. Well, maybe he's going to be right. Let's raise the cups.

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