Jasper Philipsen has backed himself to stay at the top table of sprinters in the men's peloton after forcing his way into the A-list category through a terrific run of form.
The Belgian picked up six wins in his last 15 race days of the 2021 season - including at one stage spectacularly winning four times in as many race days - and he has continued winning into the new campaign, triumphing twice at February's UAE Tour.
His form is a further demonstration of the promise and potential that the Alpecin-Fenix rider had been showing in the last five years, now consistently beating the likes of Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExchange-Jayco).
What drives Philipsen on is his innate desire to be successful, a trait that has followed him throughout his life.
"I don't like to lose," the recently-turned 24-year-old told Cycling Weekly just a few days before Paris-Nice, the race he is currently competing at.
"It’s how I am. It was always the same when I was young and playing football. When a game didn’t go how I wanted it to be going, I would be crying on the pitch. I had this winning mentality that’s not left me."
Philipsen spent two years at the WorldTour with UAE-Team Emirates, winning on four occasions including his maiden Grand Tour success at the Vuelta a España.
But it's since dropping down to ProTeam level with his current team in 2021 that he has been able to step up and show his worth on a more regular basis, highlights of which have included two wins at the Vuelta and victory at Scheldeprijs, a one-day semi-Classic that is dubbed as the sprinter's world championships.
Ever hungry, Philipsen is content but not satisfied. "At the end of last year I had some nice wins, but I feel like I'm not there yet," he added.
"I am still capable of doing other stuff as well, which I believe I will. I think I can be happy with last year, but I want to repeat that success, confirm all the wins.
"Every sprint you learn something new, but every situation is different so you can take different things from them.
"We're just trying to do everything right, and the competitions are going well recently. I've shown I'm capable of winning, and of course it's always nice when you beat the big names because it means you're doing well."
Fabio Jakobsen's six wins already this season puts him in a league of his own as cycling's most in-form sprinter right now, but Philipsen is undoubtedly in second place in the form rankings.
Put to him if he and Jakobsen will forge a rivalry last probably seen in cycling almost a decade ago when Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel were in their pomp, a confident Philipsen could see merit in the thinking.
"We will see in the upcoming years," he said. "It's pretty important [such rivalries] and if we can keep stepping up, keep winning over and over again like those guys did...
"Of course, the ambition is to win as much as possible. I can't say if that will happen as there are a lot of fast men in the peloton, but I try to do as good as possible, and give everything I have."
In the meantime, Philipsen can look back on the UAE Tour with happiness. "The level of sprinters was pretty high," he added, "so it was not easy to go there with the expectation of winning, but in the end we won twice."
After Paris-Nice comes a series of Classics, before building up to the Tour de France where he'll be hoping to improve on six podium places at the 2021 edition.
"If I am selected, and I am expecting I will be, I'll be going for stage wins at the Tour," he confirmed.
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Chris first started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2013 on work experience and has since become a regular name in the magazine and on the website. Reporting from races, long interviews with riders from the peloton and riding features drive his love of writing about all things two wheels.
Probably a bit too obsessed with mountains, he was previously found playing and guiding in the Canadian Rockies, and now mostly lives in the Val d’Aran in the Spanish Pyrenees where he’s a ski instructor in the winter and cycling guide in the summer. He almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains.
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