“The cherry on the cake was missing”, the public frustrated by the absence of Alaphilippe, the local boy

“The cherry on the cake was missing”, the public frustrated by the absence of Alaphilippe, the local boy
“The cherry on the cake was missing”, the public frustrated by the absence of Alaphilippe, the local boy

Host country for the arrival of the 10th stage of the Tour de France 2024, Saint-Amand-Montrond would have liked to vibrate for Julian Alaphilippe. The absence of the double world champion, a local boy, was still not digested this Tuesday by the Berry public.

The peloton clearly needed a bit more rest. Still groggy after a delicious first week, spiced up by the three French victories and the beginnings of a fierce three-headed battle for the yellow jersey between Tadej Pogacar, Jonas Vingegaard and Remco Evenepoel, the Tour de France resumed gently. No question of forcing it on the eve of returning to the mountains.

This Tuesday, the 10th stage between Orléans and Saint-Amand-Montrond, through Sologne, was reduced to a long nap of more than four hours. A time hoped to boost the show and trap the absent-minded in a game of echelons, the wind declined the invitation, and it was necessary to wait for the sprint to (slightly) bring the viewer out of his torpor with a victory without much surprise of the vengeful Jasper Philipsen.

“The Tour without Julian is not the same”

Enough to leave a Berry public already frustrated by the absence of the local boy: Julian Alaphilippe. Born in Saint-Amand-Montrond more than 32 years ago, the double world champion, who then grew up an hour’s drive away, near Montluçon, was expected in this city of 9,000 souls. But he preferred to skip the Grande Boucle this year, focusing his program around the Giro and the Paris Olympic Games, despite Remco Evenepoel’s insistence to have him by his side. Throughout the day, “Allez Julian” signs still flourished on the roadsides and countless roundabouts in Loiret, Loir-et-Cher, Indre and Cher.

“Hosting the Tour is wonderful. But hosting the Tour without Julian is not the same. The cherry on the cake was missing. His victory in the Giro was great and we are convinced that he will achieve something great at the Olympics, but it is still a shame not to see him here”, regrets Luc, 43, a resident of Saint-Amand-Montrond present at the finish line with his two children dressed from head to toe in the colours of Soudal-Quick Step. The same disappointment was felt by Maryline, 37, and her daughter Amélie, 14, who came from Nièvre in a camper van: “We love everything about Julian. His simplicity, his state of mind, his fighting spirit… He is one of the rare guys who races on instinct without calculation. He never looks at his power meter, it’s old-school cycling. There is something missing from the Tour de France when he is not there.” Benoît, 38 years old and “absolute fan” of Alaphilippe, himself hesitated to come.

“One more disappointment”

He only lives “two kilometres as the crow flies” from the stage finale, and his boss offered him the afternoon off, but the local favourite’s withdrawal was hard to swallow. “I’m disgusted. He should have changed teams and arrived on the Tour with the desire to smash everything. His affair with Patrick Lefevere is ending badly. And the fact that he’s not here on the Tour, while he’s passing through his home country, is yet another disappointment,” he says bitterly. His friends are more interested in “the great results of the French since the start, which almost make us forget about Julian.” “Romain (Bardet) in yellow for his last Tour, it was completely crazy. Vauquelin and Turgis also did great. And I can see little Paul Lapeira doing well this week. Yes, it’s always strange a Tour without Julian, but others are there to take over,” says Romain, 33, in his old pink T-Mobile jersey.

Sitting in his folding chair, a “Cochonou” bucket hat screwed on his head, Robert is on the same register. “After the Giro d’Italia, he would have burned himself out coming here. It’s better that he recovers for the Games. And anyway, he wouldn’t have been able to do anything on this stage. Don’t worry, he’ll have plenty of other opportunities to make us dream,” smiles the young retiree. Claude, a “pure Berry” who has just celebrated his 75th birthday, is categorical: “We miss Julian. He’s our idol. I don’t know what happened, but he deserved to be here. Now, he has to go get gold at the Olympics, and come back to the Tour next year to finish on the podium.” Tadej Pogacar and Jonas Vingegaard have been warned.

Rodolphe Ryo, in Saint-Amand-Montrond (Cher)

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