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Philipsen Defies Trolls and Rivals to Dominate Tour Sprints

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

Jasper Philipsen had the perfect response to the threats and other messages of hate he has received because of his string of victories in the Tour de France: he won again. Since his victory in stage 7, his third bunch sprint win in succession in this year’s Tour, and the unsuccessful protests filed afterwards by Astana Qazaqstan and Intermarché-Circus-Wanty, the teams of Mark Cavendish and Biniam Girmay, the almost certain winner of this year’s Škoda Green Jersey has received an avalanche of online hate mail and, according to Eurosport, messages accusing him of winning “in a rocking chair” because of the leadout of Alpecin-Deceuninck teammate Mathieu van der Poel.

But on Thursday’s stage 11, van der Poel was ill and therefore unable to ride with the bunch sprint. So Philipsen simply took matters into his own legs and demolished his rivals singlehandedly, beating Dylan Groenewegen (Team Jayco AlUla) into second place by at least two bike lengths.

“What an incredible Tour so far,” the winner told Eurosport after notching his fourth sprint victory out of five bunch sprints run so far. “I’m super-proud and super-happy with my shape.” Then, referring to the massive help he has received from van der Poel, Philipsen said, “I can also win without him. But he makes it easy.”

Apparently those who accused him of winning too easily don’t understand much about cycling and that the purpose of the leadout is precisely to make it as easy as possible for the sprinter to be first to the line. What is the problem with that? And they don’t understand that cycling is as much a team sport as football or rugby, and that almost every individual victory is built on teamwork. However, Philipsen won stage 11 pretty much on his own – and he made it look easy. Regarding the negative messages he has received on social media, he said in his column for Het Belang van Limburg, “I could scroll through it for hours, but it doesn’t make you any happier so I’m not going to bother with it either. Those messages certainly don’t throw me off balance.”

It must also be said that some of Philipsen’s victories have been shadowed by controversy. Van der Poel was relegated on stage 4 for nudging Girmay aside as he passed him, a jury decision that has been widely ridiculed by commentators. And on stage 7 Philipsen seemed to deviate from his line in the final sprint, moving across to Cavendish’s wheel and appearing to cause Girmay to slow down to avoid a collision. However, UCI commissaires looked at the finish and cleared Philipsen of wrongdoing. In addition, Danny van Poppel (Soudal–Quick-Step) accused  Philipsen of inadvertently causing his team’s sprinter, Fabio Jakobsen, to crash late on stage 4.

So, Philipsen’s route to the Škoda Green Jersey has not been straightforward at all, but no one can deny that he is dominating the competition. With at most three bunch sprints remaining in the race, it’s difficult to see anyone challenging him for the final victory, especially as he has been one of the strongest sprinters over the mountains and unlikely to be disqualified for not finishing a mountain stage within the time limit.

As of stage 11, Philipsen leads the race for the Škoda Green Jersey with 323 points, with Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) well behind in second place at 178.

1. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck): 323 points
2. Bryan Coquard (Cofidis): 178
3. Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek): 159
4. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma): 120
5. Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe): 96