He saw him on Monday raise his arms on the line at Epernay (Marne). An immense joy, intense, personal. "Suddenly I saw him on his bike when he was a kid", says very moved Franck Alaphilippe, the cousin of the new yellow jersey of the Tour de France. A new episode in a soap opera already rich between the two men. At the training center of Saint-Amand-Montrond (Cher), the first jersey of Julian Alaphilippe among professionals is hanging on the wall with the inscription: "For my Franck, thank you for everything". While in the big stables of the pack, we swear by the cells of (high) performance, the world No. 1 forms with his cousin an atypical tandem. Linked by blood ties, and that works the old way.
"I'm double his age, 52, but we have a fusional relationship. Our family is not very bike, and Julian had only me to discuss, it made our bond stronger because I was his only referent, "says the former amateur runner become responsible for the training structure and formation of Saint-Amand-Montrond.
"I am first a trainer, with my own ideas in monitoring young people," says Franck Alaphilippe. I went through the steps with Julian. I see him first as my cousin, not as one of the best runners in the world. What we live is huge for a family like ours. Julian makes me share his emotions. "
At the mention of the first victory in the Flèche Wallonne, last year, Franck admits to "still have goose bumps". Serving hospitality for ASO, the organizer of the Tour and the great classics, he was on the finish line as at Grand-Bornand, during his success at the tenth stage of the Tour de France 2018. Or , this Monday, in Épernay.
Forced to separate in 2013
"It's fabulous to live live the realization of what we planned on paper," smiles the cousin-coach. What Juju did in announcing his victory (this Monday) is very strong, because it was in every newspaper. "
The Territorial Officer follows Julian from the junior ranks. "Among fans, power files, he did not care. He preferred to listen to his feelings. For his cyclo-cross training, I sometimes drew him the course with the places where he had to accelerate. "
When he went to the pros in 2013 at Etixx-iHNed (the Quick-Step reserve), the tandem was forced to separate. "I told him, you're in one of the biggest structures in the squad, they have what it takes to coach. We have already done a long way together, do not be embarrassed. I felt relieved by my speech, "recalls Franck.
Yet, ten days later, Julian reminds him to the rescue. "He was lost and told me: Graphics, curves, watts, … it's not my thing. You'll understand in five minutes what's wrong then with another coach, I'll put hours to explain to him », Reveals Franck.
The reconstituted duet
The staff of the Belgian Quick-Step team let the family tandem reform. "They must have felt that Julian needed me, that relationship. So they let us do the first year. And as the results followed, our collaboration could not be called into question. "
"Independent" according to him, Franck Alaphilippe does not have many relations with the staff of his team. "They sometimes ask me my opinion on the schedule or the planning of the races but overall, they let me work quietly," he explains. It is a team above all human, which does not interfere with the private life of its riders. "