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Cycling: Alaphilippe reaches career's pinnacle with world title

IMOLA, Italy (Reuters) - Even when he was wearing the Tour de France’s yellow jersey, Julian Alaphilippe was already thinking of winning the world title -- and he felt that achieving the feat on Sunday was the pinnacle of his career.

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The 28-year-old, the first Frenchman to claim the road race rainbow jersey since Laurent Brochard in 1997, attacked near the top of the last climb, the Cima Gallisterna 12km from the finish, and raced away to complete a perfectly-executed plan.

Alaphilippe geared up for the race at the Tour de France, where he appeared under par after taking the yellow jersey with victory in the second stage. Yet it was also part of a plan not to peak too early.

“I was really happy to win in Nice and to wear the yellow jersey, but I had already turned to the world championships, I wanted my dream to come true,” said Alaphilippe.

It represented a magnificent addition to his increasingly impressive palmares, as he added a rainbow jersey to his 2019 Milan-Sanremo, Strade Bianche and Fleche Wallonne titles as well as to his five Tour de France stage wins.

Last month, he was narrowly beaten by Wout van Aert on Milan-Sanremo but this time it was the Belgian who had to settle for second.

“I knew what I had to do in the finale. I gave everything until the finish line,” said Alaphilippe, who made his move in the steepest part of the Cima Gallisterna.

“There’s nothing above this race. It was the race of my dreams. I went through incredible emotions by winning great races, but I’ve always put this (rainbow) jersey above the others.”

Alaphilippe came close in 2017 in Bergen, Norway, where he had been reined in with one kilometre left, one year before cracking in the finale of a tailor-made route at the Austrian venue of Innsbruck.

Last year, the rain and the cold got the better of him at the championships in Harrogate, England.

“I had already come into a world championships as the team leader, with a route that suited me and other elements that made me think I would make it,” he said.

“But I could not achieve it. It helped me grow,” added Alaphilippe, who dedicated his victory to his father, who died three months ago.

“I had promised to myself that I would win. I had promised it to my father before he died.”

Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ian Chadband

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