Winner of the Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday, Julian Alaphilippe will be one of the men to beat on the senior Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday. He will notably face Primoz Roglic, winner of the previous edition by jumping the Frenchman on the line, before the latter is downgraded (5th) after having made a “wave” in the final.
Julian Alaphilippe, how does your victory on the Flèche Wallonne affect your state of confidence?
This victory really does a lot of good. Afterwards in terms of confidence, that doesn’t change much. I know why I came to the Ardennes: to try to win and it’s done on La Flèche. It confirmed to me that the job was well done so that’s a good thing, but we shouldn’t get excited either. Liège is a different race. I’m going to give my best and it’s true that I’m approaching it with full motivation, a great team at the start and we will be keen to do well.
Raise your arms on this classic with the rainbow jersey, what would that mean to you?
Lift the bars, I already did it on Wednesday, it’s a special feeling, it feels a lot of good. But a lot of runners will want to win, it’s not just me to watch. If I really am able to win the race, it would be a huge satisfaction because it is a race that is close to my heart, that I dream of winning, so I do not hide it. But I know it will be very difficult.
Primoz Roglic, second on the Flèche Wallonne, is he the number one opponent for you and your team?
He is clearly one of the big favorites. He did a big thing on the Arrow, he started a long way, really strong. He’s been strong since the start of the season. He showed last year by winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège that he will be very hard to beat.
How do you see Alejandro Valverde, who will turn 41 on Sunday?
It warmed my heart when he came to congratulate me after La Flèche because we always had a lot of respect for each other. Whether it was during my first pro years but also when I finished behind him on my first editions of t he Flèche Wallonne. This is an example, when you see the career he is having at his age, at the highest level of world cycling, it inspires respect.
This season, what are your most important deadlines?
In terms of hierarchy, Liège is the big target for the start of the season. I’ve been saying it from the start, I worked for it. So I am very satisfied with the Flèche Wallonne, but it is completely different for Sunday and I will give the maximum. After that, I can take stock, cut a few days to recover well and think about the next step. Then, for me, it will still be the most important Tour de France, then the end of the season with the World Championships, the Tour of Lombardy… I take it a bit as it comes for the moment and I just think of Liège for the time being.
Does the fact of having formalized your extension (April 15, until 2024) allow you to approach the rest more calmly?
It’s always good for the head to be more serene, more peaceful, not to think of a possible change of team, of the transfer market… As I said, we got over pretty quickly. agreement with Patrick Lefevere, I was super happy and he too. Now I can really be 100% focused on the goals.
Do you feel the pressure of always being expected?
It’s good pressure. When it’s an important race, a goal, you always want to do well so it’s a pressure that you put on yourself. The team is not adding anything, we have already made a very good start to the season with many victories. From a more personal point of view, I am very happy with the victory over the Arrow on Wednesday. Obviously I want to finish the Classics with a very good result, but there is no special pressure. I just want to do things right.