Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe won the lone individual time trial of the Tour de France to keep the yellow jersey after 13 stages before the three-week event hits the Pyrenees this weekend.
Alaphilippe, who was not a pre-race title contender, relegated 2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas to second place by 14 seconds in Friday’s 17-mile race of truth, increasing his overall lead to 86 seconds.
“I can’t believe it,” Alaphilippe said. “OK, we don’t have the team to win the Tour de France. We don’t have a lot of climbers in [team] Deceuninck–Quick-Step for the Tour, but we ride really aggressive, and we try to win.”
Alaphilippe, 27, has a best Grand Tour finish of 33rd at last year’s Tour. Thomas said he was surprised to be beaten by the Frenchman on Friday.
“He’s certainly the favorite and the one to watch at the moment,” Thomas said of a man who would end France’s longest Tour title drought (since Bernard Hinault in 1985). “If he can keep that up, then he’ll win, but it’s a long way to go. A lot of hard stages to come.”
Thomas gained 82 seconds on perhaps his biggest rival for the title, Ineos teammate Egan Bernal. Bernal dropped from third place to fifth and out of the white jersey.
The Tour heads into the Pyrenees on Saturday with a summit finish on the famed Col du Tourmalet sure to shake up the top 10 in the overall standings.
Early in Friday’s time trial, Stage 10 winner Wout van Aert of Belgium abandoned after crashing and being taken away by ambulance with a leg injury.
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