Following a solid final stage, the Frenchman moved up in the general classification at the Middle East race.
Julian Alaphilippe was a man on a mission in the fourth stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour, which had the peloton cover 26 laps on the 5.5km-long Yas Marina Formula 1 circuit. Pouring rain made things even more difficult for the riders, turning what should have been a quiet day into a hectic and nervous affair until the very end, when the stage concluded with the win of Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) over Mark Cavendish (Dimension-Data) and André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal).
Lying 9th in the general classification and tied together with four other riders at 56 seconds behind red jersey wearer Rui Costa (UAE-Emirates), Julian was aware he had a chance to make a big jump in the overall standings, thanks to the bonus seconds put in play at the intermediate sprints. Under the floodlights, six men went clear and carved out a 1:10-advantage, but their gap started to shrink once Quick-Step Floors advanced to the front of the pack and made sure of reabsorbing the escapees before the last sprint.
Jack Bauer was the one to lead-out Alaphilippe going into the last right-hand bend before the finishing straight and the 24-year-old Frenchman made the most out of his explosive acceleration to outkick two Bora-Hansgrohe riders and pick up three vital seconds. Julian didn't stop there and mixed it up with the fast men of the peloton also at the finish, coming home in seventh place.
Quick-Step Floors' hard work at the front and Julian's determination were rewarded at the end of the day with the best young rider jersey and a solid fifth in the general classification, a remarkable result for a rider who's raced only eight days this season.
"When you win a jersey is always very special and I'm glad to take it home. It means that we did a solid race as a team. Overall, Abu Dhabi was a success for our squad, having won a stage with Marcel, which was our primary goal, and finishing in the top 5 in the GC. I'm especially happy of my performance on the climb of Jebel Hafeet. It was nice to be there in the front with the best climbers of the peloton", said Julian Alaphilippe. "I had good sensations and I'm going back home with a great morale and great memories of a nice race. I am satisfied with my result and my form, and now I'm looking forward to Paris-Nice. It's a completely different race compared to Abu Dhabi, but I will do my best to be ready and try to make the most out of this race."
"The Abu Dhabi Tour was another good race for our team. Julian put in a strong ride on the queen-stage, while Marcel scored a great victory. The team coped really well regardless of the race circumstances and Julian's fifth place ahead of great climbers such as Contador, Quintana, Aru or Nibali, all Grand Tour winners, is promising for his next appointments", concluded sport director Rik van Slycke.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele