Julian Alaphilippe, the darling French rider of the 2019 Tour de France, reclaimed the yellow jersey by winning the second stage of this year’s Tour in Nice on Sunday.
Alaphilippe, who surprisingly wore the maillot jaune for 14 days last year before finishing fifth, broke away with about eight miles left of an unusually early mountain stage. He sprinted away from Swiss Marc Hirschi and Brit Adam Yates in the last 200 meters.
Alaphilippe took the overall lead from stage one winner Alexander Kristoff of Norway. Yates is now in second place, four seconds behind.
Like going into last year’s Tour, Alaphilippe is not considered a top contender to win the Grand Tour once it reaches Paris in three weeks. He is competing this year two months after the death of his father, Jacques.
Alaphilippe pointed to the sky as he won his fifth career Tour stage. He could hold onto the yellow jersey until the Tour hits the Pyrenees for stages eight and nine.
“I’m not here to challenge for the GC [general classification, or overall title],” he said, according to VeloNews. “I’ll defend it with everything I’ve got, but you have to be realistic.”
Favorites including defending champion Egan Bernal are 17 seconds back in the overall standings.
The Tour continues with the longest flat stage on Monday, starting from Nice. Coverage begins at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold.
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