Paris-Nice Stage 6: Aubagne to Fayence
As the race reached the second ascent of the Mur de Fayence Julian Alaphilippe knew one thing – to find the wheel of Dan Martin and stay there until he’d safely
crossed the finish line. But with that job done, and the yellow jersey safe for another day, Alaphilippe found he couldn’t let him go of Martin, even after they’d reached the finish.
The superlatives of the day rightly belonged to Simon Yates, who with every win guarantees an exciting talent to cheer home for the next decade or so; but behind him was another battle, the one between Alaphilippe and himself.
With Yates up the road, Alaphilippe knew he had more than two minutes on the Bury man. And when Porte went he knew the cross winds of Stages 1 and 2 meant the Aussie’s efforts were for pride more than anything. But Sergio Henao was different, trailing on GC by little more than a minute.
Alaphilippe, couldn’t follow Henao, but didn’t panic. Neither did Dan Martin, slotting in ahead of his teammate and pulling him up what, even on TV, looked like an unforgiving climb. Martin, who only last month was leading the Volta ao Algarve, was now demonstrating cycling’s egalitarian side, putting in the work for his teammate.
Alaphilippe knew what to do, and followed Martin all the way to the summit. Martin, in one of those moments that really sticks, swung wide as the finish line appeared, waving Alaphilippe through ahead of him while he kept watch on those chasing behind. Watching the footage you’d guess Martin assumed there wer
e still bonus seconds to be had, or maybe wasn’t sure and didn’t want to risk it. But the gesture, waving Alaphilippe through just in case, stuck.
Post race the cameras picked out Yates. A few feet away Alaphilippe had his arm around Martin. Both were smiling. Martin had done his job and Alaphilippe had too, keeping the lead for another day. Instinctively Alaphilippe then embraced Martin a second time, the thanks and gratitude all too obvious.
These moments encapsulate the best of cycling. Here we had a race leader showing his gratitude, acknowledging his frailties, and his dependence on others for his own
success. It’s moments like this when you understand what makes cycling such a compelling story, as well as such a human one.
Attention will rightly be on Yates tonight, and the performance that reminds us of what we have to look forward in the future. But Alaphilippe keeps yellow tonight, thanks to his own grit, and that of an Irishman who left everything on the Mur de Fayence for a teammate.
For full results from Stage 6 of Paris-Nice, go to ProCyclingStats.com.
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