Franck Alaphilippe, the coach and cousin of the double world champion, was not traveling to Liège this weekend with the rest of the staff of the Quick-Step team. It was therefore as a viewer that he witnessed the massive fall which cut the peloton of the “Doyenne” in two, on Sunday approaching the Col du Rosier, without immediately understanding that his foal was the one of the main victims.
“Like everyone else, it took me a while to understand that he was no longer in front, he says. It wasn’t until I saw the aerial image that showed him leaning against the tree that I realized it was serious. I was worried, very worried even. »
“He released one or two nonsense as he usually does, I was happy to see that he had already found his joker side. »
Well placed, in the first thirty positions of the peloton, launched at more than 70 km / h, Alaphilippe could not do anything to avoid the wave which sent several dozen runners to the mat. Violently thrown against a tree, the Frenchman came to his senses only to realize that he was suffocating, which made him panic under the dumbfounded gaze of runners less seriously injured than him. Unable to breathe, he was unaware that he had just punctured his lung and that blood was accumulating between it and his chest wall.
Supported after a few minutes by the doctor of his training, he was quickly transported to the nearest hospital, conscious, but in poor condition. In Herentals, fractures of the scapula and two ribs will be diagnosed to him, in addition to hemopneumothorax.
Monday morning, Franck Alaphilippe called him in video, and what he saw and heard reassured him. “He was going like an accident, he was still in great pain, but he was not at all down, says his lifelong coach. He got out a couple of nonsense as he usually does, I was happy to see that he had already found his joking side. Afterwards, he is seriously injured, it is clear, and he is disgusted. He said to me: “Within 50 centimeters, I avoid the tree, maybe I can even get back on the bike and resume the race.” He had a lot of bad luck. It’s these words: “I had to hit this tree…”
A disrupted preparation
In the afternoon of Monday, the runner underwent additional examinations to identify which of the three injuries will cause the longest recovery period, without any clear answer having been given for the moment. He will undergo new analyzes on Tuesday and therefore remains hospitalized for the moment, he who hoped to take advantage of this week to rest before leaving to prepare for three weeks at altitude, in Sierra Nevada, and refine his form before his summer objectives: the Dauphiné and the tour of France. This program is obviously turned upside down.
“In a career, every runner has at least one very complicated year where nothing is going right: Julian is right in the middle of it, explains Franck Alaphilippe. He has always had difficult times, but a dark period like that, never. Since the start of the year, he’s had a cold, bronchitis, the flu, and now he’s fallen three times in less than two months. Every fortnight he’s been upset about something… But from what I’ve seen of him, I feel like this episode is going to make him stronger, give him even more mental toughness, he’s going to be even more determined than before. We can’t give a recovery date yet, but I’m very optimistic for the rest of the season. »
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