(AFP) – Yellow jersey holder Julian Alaphilippe says his Tour de France is already a success, no matter what happens when the race resumes after Tuesday’s rest day.
“Before the Tour, I wanted to do well (in the first 10 days),” he told a press conference ahead of Wednesday’s 167 kilometre stage 11 from Albi to Toulouse.
“I worked hard with that in mind which is why I am not thinking too much about the end of the Tour but more about what I have achieved over these opening 10 days.
“It’s way beyond anything I imagined. My Tour is already a success. Anything that happens now is a bonus.”
The 27-year-old, who earlier this season won the Milan-San Remo and La Fleche Wallone one day races, has had two spells in yellow on this Tour.
After winning stage three in the champagne region, he became the first Frenchman since Tony Gallopin in 2014 to wear it, holding it for three days before handing it over after stage six.
He then reclaimed it again after stage eight when he finished third in Saint-Etienne, donning it on Bastille Day.
Alaphilippe has a lead of one minute 12 seconds over defending champion Geraint Thomas with the Welshman’s Ineos teammate Egan Bernal just four seconds further back.
Thomas, a two-time Olympic track gold medallist, is expected to press for the race lead during Friday’s time-trial in Pau.
“I am happy to be doing a sprinter’s stage (Wednesday) with the yellow jersey and that should give me another day in yellow as long as there isn’t a glitch,” said Alaphilippe. “But I know that the Pyrenees are coming and the time trial.
“I know that it is not my strong point but I have improved and worked hard on it. I am not going to challenge the best time-triallers but I will give everything as usual.
“With this type of course and with the yellow jersey on my back, if I still have it, I hope to spring a surprise.”
Alaphilippe has never been considered a genuine contender for the general classification.
The Deceuninck-Quick Step rider is eager to hang on to the fabled jersey, which is celebrating its 100th year as the overall leader’s livery, for as long as possible.
“For the moment I will continue to defend it and honour it. I hope to surprise myself, do something beautiful but I am not going to dream.
“The most difficult part is still to come. What I have done, though, is already incredible.
“Even if I recognise what is going to happen, when you wear the jersey and you are French, the whole of your country feels it and dreams.”