“I am really sick of this. I would rather finish 10th than 2nd. Our patience is now being tested.”
That was the rather ungracious reaction from Jayco-AlUla’s Dylan Groenewegen to Philipsen winning on Stage 11 at the 2023 Tour de France yesterday. Philipsen equaled the tally of Mark Cavendish in 2021 after taking a fourth stage win, and he must be the favorite to get another in Paris, the last remaining true sprint stage.
Alpecin-Deceuninck team manager Christoph Roodhooft’s said a dew days ago that “Mathieu van der Poel and Jasper Philipsen are probably the best sprint combo in the world right now”.
Hard to argue with that at this moment in time.
Groenewegen hasn’t quite given up hope just yet.
“We have to keep trying,” he said. “That’s all we can do. I think there are two or three more [potential sprint] stages and we will fight until Paris.”
Uno-X Pro’s Alexander Kristoff, himself no stranger to winning big sprint stages, sounded a note of caution however, highlighting Philipsen’s versatility.
“He won again. Yeah, it’s going to be difficult,” he said. “He’s the fastest so when he also has the best team you know it’s going to be tricky. You never know what’s going to happen though: suddenly there’s a crash or something and you get a chance. We hope he gets tired, but he’s good on climbs so I don’t think so.”
Did he just say he’s wishing for a crash? That’s very poor form indeed…
Philipsen is often compared to Tom Boonen, the Belgian great, who could win sprints but also hang with the best Classics riders around, as he proved when he came 2nd at Paris-Roubaix this year – and indeed he categorised himself as such back in 2017.
“I think I am a Classics guy who can sprint really well at the end of hard days. Maybe I can be a real sprinter. I also excel in short TTs, because I am really explosive.”
Maybe this is why the ‘pure’ sprinters are slightly annoyed by his dominance at this Tour. This ‘Classics guy’ with a bit of a sprint is dominating, and that must hurt – if you don’t deem him a ‘real’ sprinter.
Phil Bauhaus of Bahrain-Victorious made a comment that suggested that Philipsen was winning because the rest were not performing to their usual level: “If you win four out of four bunch sprints, you have to say he’s the fastest,” the German said. “I need more speed in the final. I think everybody is missing a bit of speed to beat him. I have been on the podium three times, I was one of the fastest, but maybe I missed those few hundred watts that Jasper had.”
Uh, well, yes, that would be the obvious conclusion.
These guys may have to get used to this and give Philipsen his due respect – he is just 25 and may dominate for some time.
Soudal-Quickstep’s lead out man, Michael Mørkøv, pointed to his own team’s lack of success but also to the roll Philipsen is on.
“It’s not frustrating that Philipsen wins – it’s frustrating that we didn’t contest for the sprint. Jasper has now won four out of four, which is nice for him, but I’m more concerned about ourselves. I believe he can be beaten. He was beaten before. But as we see sometimes with a sprinter who is on a roll and has the confidence, he becomes even stronger.”
Back in 2017, when he had left the BMC Development Team and was without a pro contract, the Belgian mused about where his cycling career might end up.
“I will see about what my aims as a pro rider will be in the future. I really can’t say something like ‘I will win Flanders in five years’ time’ because I just don’t know what my career will be like.”
Well, it’s shaping up pretty well at the moment Jasper…