COLMAR, France (AP) - In an era where riders are becoming slaves to power meters, earpieces and all sorts of technological gadgets, Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe is bringing a much-needed dose of flair into the Tour de France.
With his juvenile looks and aggressive style of racing, the 27-year-old took the Tour de France's lead by storm earlier this week with a brilliant attack on a tough climb that left his rivals stranded.
The move earned him the yellow jersey and made him the new national hero.
''It was the victory of panache,'' said Deceuninck Quick Step team manager Patrick Lefevere after his protege became the first Frenchman in five years to seize the coveted tunic.
Alaphilippe is enjoying a fast growing popularity. In every small village crossed by the peloton, fans are shouting his name when they catch a glimpse of the yellow tunic, and large groups of excited supporters surround his team bus at the start and finish of each stage.
''I'm not riding my bike to be popular, but of course all this support will help me get beyond my limits in the coming days,'' Alaphilippe said.
An all-rounder who thrives on sharp and short climbs, Alaphilippe has not come from nowhere. With his devastating attacks, he posted two stage wins and won the best climber's polka dot jersey last summer on the Tour. This year, he has been phenomenal during the first part of the season, posting victories at Milan-San Remo, the Fleche Wallonne and Strade Bianche.
******** France's Julian Alaphilippe wearing the overall leader's yellow jerse arrives for the start of the fifth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 175.5 kilometers (109 miles) with start in Saint-Die-Des-Vosges and finish in Colmar, Wednesday, July 10, 2019.