For two years, the relationship between Julian Alaphilippe and his Soudal Quick-Step team, with which he is under contract until the end of 2024, has been on the rocks. And at the start of the new year, there is no improvement in sight, quite the contrary. During the team presentation on Tuesday January 9 in Calpe (Spain), in which Julian Alaphilippe did not participate, general manager Patrick Lefévère announced that the French cyclist should “a priori” not be at the start of the next Tour of France (June 29-July 21). The Belgian team will aim for a good place in the general classification with its leader, Remco Evenepoel, who will take the roads of the Grande Boucle for the first time. “Seeing Julian [in a teammate role] 100% serving Remco Evenepoel, I don’t like that,” commented Patrick Lefévère.

A sidelining? Not according to Julian Alaphilippe, who spoke this Wednesday in an interview with L’Equipe. “It’s not a disappointment not to go to the Tour, it’s a choice on my part confirmed by the team,” says the rider. The Frenchman, who wore the yellow jersey of the Tour in 2019, 2020 and 2021, evokes a desire to change his usual racing calendar, a strategy which prevents him from participating in the Tour de France. “I drew up my program and it was validated so that we have a team dedicated to [stage] victories in the Giro, and another which plays the general role in the Tour,” he insists.

“An impulsive runner, not always intelligent”

Julian Alaphilippe should therefore participate in the Tour of Italy, from May 4 to 26. A decision confirmed by Patrick Lefévère, who slips a dig at the Frenchman in passing. “I think the Giro suits his style as an impulsive rider, not always intelligent but who people like,” said the Belgian manager.

This is not the first time that Lefévère has had harsh words for the native of Saint-Amand-Montrond (Cher). Depriving the Tour de France of one of the most popular French cyclists in France is a strong choice on the part of Quick-Step. “A disgruntled rider on a team is useless. He had the opportunity to leave. I like riders who respond to the pedal, and he will do it,” replied Patrick Léfèvre, when asked about the Frenchman’s reaction to his non-selection for the Tour de France.

“It’s always special to miss the Tour, but I’m happy with my goals. It’s a very complete season. You have to make choices and stick to them,” explains Julian Alaphilippe in the columns of L’Équipe.

Asked about an extension of his contract with Soudal-Quick Step, the 31-year-old runner kicks in. In April 2021, after his first world champion title, he signed for three more years. But the Frenchman’s recent average seasons have not satisfied the Flemish leader. “I have to be realistic: it eats up a large part of my budget and I still want results,” he said in April 2023, in the RMC podcast “Grand Plateau”.

Julian Alaphilippe is currently in Australia, where he is due to take part in the Tour Down Under, the opening race of the season, from January 16 to 21. Although he will probably not participate in the Tour de France, the Frenchman hopes to compete in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.