(AFP) – Ineos boss Dave Brailsford said Monday Tour de France leader Julian Alaphilippe had revolutionised the way the race was being contested, but insisted that consistency would finally pay off for the British outfit.
A series of swashbuckling attacks from Alaphilippe see him leave the Pyrenees with the yellow jersey and a 1min 35sec lead on second placed Thomas with 15 eventful stages behind them.
Mastermind of six Tour de France wins from the last seven editions, Brailsford said Alaphilippe had thrown a spanner in the Ineos works, taking their attention off who they originally saw as the chief contenders, and spoiling their plans to control the Tour.
“Alaphilippe has gained time on everyone with great style, his presence has changed the way all the other teams are riding too, not just us,” said Brailsford.
Alaphilippe has become a focal point for French fans and will wear the yellow jersey an 11th time on Tuesday’s flat run around Nimes, where 40 degrees celsius (over 100 fahrenheit) temperatures are expected.
“He is the biggest change to the Tour, he’s created a ripple effect,” insisted Brailsford. “Because of him we are forced to react to the situation minute by minute.”
Brailsford said that Alaphilippe’s presence was an unexpected headache.
“We have the conundrum of trying to get rid of Alaphilippe and dealing with the general classification guys. It’s both exciting on one level and on another like a game of chess. This predicament is making the whole race very different.”
When asked if he and Thomas had spoken too soon on the last rest day when they predicted Alaphilippe would wilt in the individual time trial, which he won, and suffer in the Pyrenees, where he also extended his lead over the two days.
“If (Alaphilippe) pulls it off he’s on another level to everyone. If he was to win this race he’ll be one of the greatest riders of all time,” said Brailsford.
But Brailsford insisted he remained confident his Ineos charges would emerge from high-altitude in the Alps later this week.
“There are four races that go over the magical 2000m mark and that’s where the real difference will be made,” he predicted. “It’s going to go down to the wire. But I believe our consistency will pay off,” said Brailsford.
“I feel I’ve managed the race well, I have had my bad day and it wasn’t that bad either,” Geraint Thomas explained. “I’m itching to go now and hoping the Alps will treat me a lot better,”.
“I didn’t feel that great on the last climb (Sunday),” he admitted “But I feel motivated going into the Alps, to finish this tour off well.
“This is the biggest race in the world I love it and I relish the Alps coming up,” said Thomas. “I’m second and that’s good place to be,” he said.
Thomas praised his co-captain Bernal, who is fifth and has worked well alongside the older man.
“We stick together, and I trust him,” said Thomas.