He was a wounded lion, a champion in need, a hurting soul. A fading star, they said of Julian Alaphilippe. He is not the same. He falls too much. The new and young people have passed over him. Pogacar, the pink jersey of this Giro, or Evenepoel, the leader who has ousted him, on whom the team will bet in the Tour. He even discussed his professionalism. Even from within his own team. Soudal’s own manager, the ineffable Patrick Lefevere, attacked him for his private life.

There was a time when his name instilled fear, that he was the most watched cyclist in leg-breaking races. He doesn’t do that much. The cuffs of his jersey attest to this. Alaphilippe, the one of the two World Cups in a row, in 2020 and 2021. But all that is soon forgotten and now he urgently needed a victory.

Until the double world champion put an end to all that gossip this Thursday. He silenced the controversy and was able to overcome the suffering of being exposed and criticized. Alaphlippe returned through the front door. His mentality has been worthy of praise these months of being the center of the target. His class was already well known.

Although the results did not arrive, the cyclist resisted. He went on and on. He wanted to get his way. In the last Tour he tried actively and passively in search of a stage victory. And the same in this Giro. He was about to do it on the day of the sterrato but he met another young man, Pelayo Sánchez, who left him without a prize. He escaped again in the eighth stage… and in the tenth.

Until in Fano, on the Adriatic coast, his combativeness was rewarded. For 125 kilometers he escaped with Mirco Maestri, through the hills of the province of Marche, a very Alaphilippe terrain. Both collaborated although the Italian from Polti knew that at the Monte Giove wall, 11 km from the finish line, he was cannon fodder. It was the ideal place for the Frenchman to leave and leave him. Before starting the slope, Maestri cooled the back of his neck and threw the bottle away. Any less weight is a help to try to follow the weight that he was going to receive.

But when Alaphilippe started, little could be done. He seemed the same as always, the one from the good times. The one who won like it was nothing in Huy, the one who won in San Sebastián, the one who was fifth in a Tour. Alaphilippe flew to success again, 11 months after his last victory, in the Dauphiné.

The Frenchman is good at racing in Italy. He has won three stages in the Tirreno-Adriatico, one of them precisely in Jesi, near Fano, he scored a Strade Bianche, in Imola he was crowned and put on the rainbow jersey for the first time and he even won a Milan-Sanremo . But he needed to win in the Giro, after making his debut in the Vuelta in 2017 and raising his arms in four consecutive Tours, from 2018 to 2021. Not anymore. He already has the trilogy. He now has his credit restored. And his name, pristine.