Not since the pomp days of Marcel Kittel, or going further back, a youthful Mark Cavendish, has a sprinter been as dominant at the Tour de France as Jasper Philipsen is at the moment. Not that you would know it from the Belgian's manner, which is unassuming, retiring even; he loathes to take credit himself for his performance, instead passing it onto his teammates.
The Alpecin-Deceuninck rider has now won the last four pure bunch sprints at the Tour, as long as one is prepared to not count Christophe Laporte's surge to the line in Cahors last year, where Philipsen came second, but he is not getting carried away with the situation.
Asked if he was pleased to win two stages in a row - first to Bayonne, and now to Nogaro - the 25-year-old immediately passed the success onto those who guided him to the line.
"I think it’s really difficult [to win two in a row], and it probably will not happen often," Philipsen said. "I’m just really happy and proud that we have such a strong team and leadout, even in a f***ed up situation like today, actually.
"We were able to arrive at the front and sprint for victory, that’s only possible with a strong team behind you. It’s a privilege to have Mathieu [van der Poel] as a last man, I don’t think a lot of other guys can say that."
He is clearly not a student of Tour history, however. While two-in-a-row is an impressive feat, it is not a unique one. In fact, his good friend Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) achieved it last year, while Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) managed the same in 2021. It was the tenth time a sprinter has managed it this century. Still, one shouldn't burst Philipsen's bubble.
The "f***ed up situation" came from a messy final two kilometres on the motor racing circuit at Nogaro, with the Belgian losing his leadout train, there being crashes around him, and general chaos. One of the crashes was Fabio Jakobsen (Soudal Quick-Step), and Philipsen's leadout man Van der Poel was separately penalised for deviating from his line closer to the line.
"It was not super smooth, there was a bit of improvisation," Philipsen explained. "It was more hectic than I expected, and I also felt and heard some crashes around me, so first of all I really hope everyone is OK.
"It was not a super smooth leadout like yesterday and we lost each other because it was so hectic. But on the final straight, I still found the wheel of Mathieu, and I didn’t know he still had this in the tank, he delivered me 150m to go. I didn't have a lot on the legs, so I was happy it was a short sprint. Caleb [Ewan] came very close."
Philipsen almost seems to shy from saying that he won because of his own strength, or because he is the best sprinter at the race. At the moment, he definitely appears to be.
Asked why Alpecin-Deceuninck appear to be bossing it, he said: "I think my whole team is focussed around Mathieu and me. We have almost no climbers in our team, so we're really focussed on sprint stages and ones for Mathieu. That gives us for sure an advantage to those who have climbers or GC guys.
"We will always be the team that signs on the first that will probably sign on the first as we have no GC guys. We are targeting stages, and it has worked out well so far."
A third sprint opportunity does come in the opening week, in Bordeaux, but this comes the other side of the first two mountain stages of the race. At this point, however, you would still bet on Philipsen to win again, especially as some of his rivals - Ewan, Dylan Groenewegen - have now lost leadout men.
"It’s a goal for sure, to go for the third victory, but I think we have to enjoy this first," Philipsen said. "There are two other stages we have to survive, as the Pyrenees are very early. We will see in three days how my legs feel after the Tourmalet and the other climbs. There are other sprints to come, and hopefully with the same outcome."
Perhaps a third sprint win, the fifth bunch victory in a row, would coax Philipsen out of his shell a little, to cause him to consider himself the best. Onto Friday.
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