"For Julian it was a liberating victory after a difficult period" - Marion Rousse delighted to see smile return to Alaphilippe's face with stunning Giro stage win

One of the most entertaining and widely-liked riders in the peloton, Julian Alaphilippe's stunning return to form at the 2024 Giro d'Italia has been one of the most feel-good stories to emerge from the opening Grand Tour of the year.

Coming off the back of some dark years as the former two-time world champion battled injuries, a lack of confidence and a barrage of public and sometimes very personal criticism from his Soudal - Quick-Step team boss, Patrick Lefevere, Alaphilippe has sparkled on a number of stages on his Giro d'Italia debut. Most notable of all his performances though was his sensational solo stage win on stage 12 after he attacked with over 120km still to go.

No one knows what Alaphilippe has gone through in the last couple of years better than his partner, the race organiser of the Tour de France Femmes, Marion Rousse. "It's fantastic to see him racing at this level again. He wants to continue racing aggressively until this Giro d'Italia is over," Rousse reflects in conversation with Sporza. "If you won 10 times in a year, it would cause fewer emotions. But for Julian, it was a liberating victory after a difficult period."

According to Rousse, Alaphilippe's entertaining and attacking style may yet garner more rewards at the Giro before the race reaches Rome. "To see Julian shine as a super-combativity winner? That would be very nice, he has been on the attack almost every stage already," she proposes. "There will be another great opportunity on Friday. Julian will attack until the end of this Giro. If Movistar had not ridden earlier in the stage to Monte Pana, he might have won that stage too."

And with reports that Remco Evenepoel is trying to convince Lefevere to bring the Frenchman with him to the Tour de France later this summer, Rousse is keen to stress the importance of not asking too much of her partner though. "Julian is only too happy to sacrifice himself for Remco and for the team," Rousse explains. "But then he must not come out of the Giro too tired. It is the team that decides."

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