Frenchman Julian Alaphillipe is the 2020 Elite Men’s road race World Champion after taking a solo win in Imola. The 28 year old is the first French World Champion since Laurent Brochard in 1997.
Alaphillipe took the win after launching a solo attack on the last Cima Gallisterna climb crossing the line 24 seconds ahead of Belgian Wout Van Aert with Swiss Marc Hirschi edging Pole Michel Kwiatowski by a wheel rim to claim the bronze.
The new holder of the rainbow stripes, added to a palmares that includes Milano San Remo, Strade Bianchi and five stages of the Tour de France, said:
“For this moment it’s really hard to say something. I want to say ‘thank-you’ to all my teammates who really believed in me today. Everybody did a great job. It was a dream of my career. Sometimes, I was so close, and I was never on the podium. I came here with a lot of ambition and it’s just a dream day for me.”
The 258.2 km race featured nine laps of a circuit that the ladies had already tested and proved a tough challenge the previous day. Each 28.8km lap featured two climbs, Mazzolano (2.8km at an average gradient of 5.9%, with a maximum of 13%) and the Cima Gallisterna (2.7km at 6.4%, 14% max.) whose summit is placed 12km from the finish line. There was hardly a respite between the two summits and with 550 metres of ascent each lap, the day offered 5000 metres of climbing.
Representing 43 countries 174 riders started the race at 10am from the Autodromo and almost immediately there was a seven man break. Jonas Koch (Germany), Torstein Traeen (Norway), Marco Friedrich (Austria), Daniil Fominykh (Kazakhstan), Yukiya Arashiro (Japan), Eduard-Michael Grosu (Romania) and Alfredo Ulises Castillo Soto (Mexico) with the latter three their countries sole representatives.
One lap down and the break had gained 5’54’’ on the main group led by the Slovenian, Swiss and Belgium national teams. The gap between attackers and peloton fluctuated during the first part of the race: 6’34’’ after the second lap, 5’07’’ after lap three, 7’07’’ at the end of the fourth and 5’41’’ after lap five. By now Friedrich and Grosu had been distanced by the breakaway group.
During the sixth lap the complexion of the race was changing fast as the main group increased its pace. The break had disintegrated leaving Jonas Koch and Torstein Traeen out in front with Arashiro bravely flying the flag for Japan in no-man’s-land. 2’37’’ behind him the bunch was in one long line driven by Denmark national team.
The breakaway finally ended with 68km to go, just after the seventh passage on Cima Gallisterna thanks to a powerful acceleration by the French national team.
Slovenian hopeful, 2020 Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar, gave his country a pause when he had to go for a bike change but promptly got back into the favourites’ Gruppo Compatto of around 50 riders. The next lap he was off the front making a daring attack on Cima Gallisterna about the same distance from the line as Anna van der Breggen did for her win the day before.
Chased by Belgium, Pogačar gained 10 seconds with 40km to go and then increased his advantage to 25 seconds with one lap remaining. It wasn’t enough though as he was caught by Dutchman Tom Dumoulin and then all the main group on the Mazzolano ascent.
After a day staying quiet in the bunch the Italian national team attacked with Damiano Caruso and then with Vincenzo Nibali with 20km to go hoping to make the World Championship a home win.
The day had taken its toll and after 240km the field had been culled ruthlessly ahead of the last Cima Gallisterna climb. Belgium’s Greg Van Avermaet pushed hard on the first part of the ascent, then it was the turn of the Swiss Marc Hirschi and 2014 UCI World Champion Michał Kwiatkowski from Poland.
It was Frenchman Alaphilippe who finally seized the day, chased by Hirschi, Giro di Lombardia winner Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark), Van Aert, Primož Roglič (Slovenia) and Kwiatkowski. With 5km to go, Alaphilippe had taken a 12-second advantage and pushed full gas until the end, claiming his first UCI World title in front of Van Aert and Hirschi, 23 years after Laurent Brochard in San Sebastián, Spain.
2020 Elite Road World Champions:
Women Elite ITT @AnnavdBreggen, Netherlands
Men Elite ITT @GannaFilippo, Italy
Women Elite RR @AnnavdBreggen, Netherlands
Men Elite RR @alafpolak1, France