France's fastest showman on two wheels is back making a splash at the Tour de France and once again wearing the iconic yellow jersey.
Julian Alaphilippe, the rider who more than any other helped turn the 2019 edition into a thriller, again showered the Tour with his class and guile Sunday, poaching victory on Stage 2 in the picture-postcard Mediterranean city of Nice and taking the overall race lead.
A final burst of acceleration timed with precision enabled Alaphilippe to shake two pursuers and hold off the main pack of riders furiously gaining ground on the finishing straight.
Alaphilippe kissed his finger and raised it to the sky as he crossed the line, an apparent tribute to his recently deceased father.
The stage win, his fifth in four Tours, will anchor his status as a darling of French cycling fans, conquered by his thrilling riding at last year's edition, when he held the race lead for 14 days.
He is now back in yellow, thanks to time bonuses picked up for winning the stage and on the final climb of the arduous day of riding through mountains north of Nice.
And while Alaphilippe is playing down any hope of winning the overall title in Paris in three weeks, he intends to cling onto the coveted jersey for as long as he can.
“The yellow jersey has to be respected,” he said. “I will defend it with honor.”