“I didn’t really expect that,” Thomas said. “He’s obviously going incredibly well, so he’s certainly the favorite and the one to watch.”
Mindful of how quickly the Tour’s mountains can destroy podium hopes, Alaphilippe furiously sought to temper expectations, repeating that he is thinking only “day by day.”
“One mustn’t dream,” Alaphilippe said.
Given the doping-stained history of cycling and the Tour, Alaphilippe also immediately faced a question in his Friday news conference about the credibility of his performance, which he batted away, seemingly unruffled.
“If it creates suspicions, that’s the way it is,” he said. “I’m just riding my bike in the way I like.”
Having confounded expectations with his punchy riding, Alaphilippe is converting others in the peloton to the idea that he could ride up the Champs-Élysées in the lead on July 28.
“He can surprise everybody,” said Belgian rider Thomas De Gendt, who was third on Stage 13 and 36 seconds slower than Alaphilippe.
Behind Thomas and Alaphilippe, there was significant movement in the overall standings.
Steven Kruijswijk from the Netherlands, fifth in Paris last year, vaulted to third. But his deficit to Alaphilippe grew to 2:12, having been just 1:27 before the time trial.
Thomas’s teammate, Egan Bernal, slipped from third to fifth over all, 2:52 behind Alaphilippe. Having started the Tour in Belgium as the co-leader with Bernal on their team, Thomas increasingly looks like the undisputed No. 1 of Ineos.