Fausto Masnada was our first rider home after a tough day of racing with atrocious weather.
Soudal Quick-Step put on an offensive display at the Japan Cup, the team’s penultimate outing of the season, which ran over 13 laps (instead of the planned 16) of a hard circuit that featured the Mt. Kogashi climb. The demanding parcours, taking in some 3000 vertical meters, and the heavy rain made for an attritional race, but that didn’t stop Julian Alaphilippe from going early on the attack.
The double World Champion, making his first appearance in Japan since turning pro, took off with around 110 kilometers until the finish, won two of the day’s KOM prizes and carved out a nice 1:20 advantage, which allowed him to remain in the lead until 60 kilometers to go, when he was joined by a select group containing teammates James Knox, Fausto Masnada and Ilan Van Wilder. Soon after, more attacks came on the 2.1km ascent, whittling down the small peloton to around a dozen riders with four laps remaining.
The same Alaphilippe remained incredibly active, and after a brief acceleration of James Knox who tried to apply pressure on the others, the Frenchman rode clear again, this time on the descent, putting a couple of seconds between him and the chasers. Despite his admirable efforts, Julian was reeled in with 25 kilometers left of the race, but even then, he continued to be prominent, working for Masnada, who had come here after a solid outing in the Italian one-day races.
The 29-year-old from Bergamo gave his best in the finale of this rain-soaked race and concluded the Japan Cup, won by Rui Costa (Intermarche-Circus-Wanty), as the highest-ranked Soudal Quick-Step rider, in 14th place.
Photo credit: ©Kei Tsuji