Julian Alaphilippe, winner of the 12th stage of the Giro, climbs back up the slope

Could he still win? For many months, this question has accompanied Julian Alaphilippe at each of his appearances at the start of a cycling race

Julian Alaphilippe, winner of the 12th stage of the Giro, climbs back up the slope

Could he still win? For many months, this question has accompanied Julian Alaphilippe at each of his appearances at the start of a cycling race. Thursday May 16, the French rider responded with a big “yes”, by winning the 12th stage of the Tour of Italy, contested between Martinsicuro and Fano (193 kilometers). At the end of a 126 kilometer breakaway, led for a long time in the company of the Italian Mirco Maestri (Polti Kometa), the French rider from the Soudal-Quick Step team crossed the line alone, arms raised, 31 seconds in front of the Ecuadorian Jhonatan Narvaez (Ineos Grenadiers).

“It’s a victory that feels good, which is important for me,” Alaphilippe explained to the organizers after his success today. This is a step that I had checked off. » The uneven without being too mountainous profile of this 12th stage corresponded, in fact, well to the punching qualities of the 31-year-old Frenchman. Above all, the short and steep climb located a little more than 10 kilometers from the goal was a golden opportunity to definitively let go of Maestri, with whom the collaboration had until then been harmonious.

Thanks to this victory, Alaphilippe becomes the 109th rider in the history of cycling to have won a stage on the three major Tours (France, Italy and Spain). The last success of the double world champion (2020 and 2021) dates back to June 2023, when he won a stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné. After the victories of Benjamin Thomas (Cofidis) and Valentin Paret-Peintre (Décathlon-AG2R La Mondiale), this is also the third success of a Frenchman in the 2024 Giro.

“Everything was going the wrong way.”

For Alaphilippe, this Thursday, May 16, has a strong taste of revenge. Overwhelmed in recent seasons by falls, injuries and controversies with his boss Patrick Lefevere (who found the gap between his salary and his results too significant), the rider from Montluçon, who now resides in Andorra, notably participated in the last Tour of Flanders, March 31, with a fracture line in his knee, an injury he initially suppressed so as not to give the impression of “making excuses.”

“I experienced the kind of moment where we give our all and where resilience is put to the test,” he told Le Monde at the beginning of May, before starting the Giro for the first time. In these moments, we do everything we can and there are no returns. Everything was going wrong, and it was affecting my daily life. It was difficult on the bike, but also in the head, and elsewhere. » This Thursday, as soon as the finish line was crossed, the Frenchman's head was already feeling much better. “Ah, that feels good! ”, were his first words.