As his reign as world road race champion comes to an end, Julian Alaphilippe has admitted he put pressure on himself to perform while wearing the famous rainbow jersey.
However, as he prepares to defend his title in Antwerp on Saturday, Alaphilippe feels content with how his season has gone and is hopeful he can win a second successive world crown.
The Frenchman kicked off his season in the rainbow jersey by finishing second overall at the Tour de la Provence, and followed that up by winning La Flèche Wallonne for the third time.
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Alaphilippe also won the first stage of this year’s Tour de France, but lost the overall lead the following day, and he pulled on the rainbow jersey for the final time at the Primus Classic in Belgium last weekend.
“This season has taken so much energy and focus from me, both in terms of enjoying the stature of being a world champion but also when it comes to my performances,” he wrote for Cyclingnews.
I’ve tried to give my best in every race I’ve lined up for and that’s not always easy when you’re the world champion.
“Everyone looks at you, you can feel it, and they expect you to win every race. I’ve learned to accept that; to always give my best but also enjoy every moment too.”
Alaphilippe suggested it won’t be until the season is over that he can fully take stock of his season in the rainbow jersey.
He is confident, though, that there are plenty of reasons to be proud with his performances over the past 12 months.
"When I look at my season as world champion, I think that I can be satisfied. I’ve tried to give everything for my goals, my team, and my jersey. I was proud to race the Classics in the rainbow jersey and it was the same at the Tour de France this summer. I created a lot of memories," Alaphilippe added.
"When I talk about the pressure it’s not always about the outside world. It’s more about the responsibility that I’ve put on my shoulders. I always want to make a difference in races and show my qualities, while at the same time I always want to progress. But when you have the jersey it’s just different. It’s hard to explain but you end up putting a bit more pressure on yourself.
"I don’t know if there was one moment that stood out as being the most difficult in terms of being the world champion but I want to remember the special moments like La Flèche Wallonne and of course winning the first stage of the Tour de France. The victory on stage 1 was just a few days after the birth of my son and taking that win will always mean the world to my family and I."
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