Bordeaux: It was not so long ago that Jasper Philipsen was nicknamed “Jasper Disaster.”
In the space of a week at the Tour de France, he has morphed into “Jasper The Master,” dominating the sprints with ease.
The Belgian rider secured a hat trick of stages on Friday by claiming yet another mass sprint in Bordeaux. Philipsen was expertly led to the front by his Alpecin-Deceuninck teammate Mathieu van der Poel then comfortably countered a move by veteran sprinter Mark Cavendish.
Biniam Girmay completed the stage podium, and defending champion Jonas Vingegaard kept the yellow jersey.
Philipsen has won five mass sprints in a row on the Tour after claiming two stage wins last year.
“If you told me this one week ago I would think you’re crazy, but so far it’s a dream for us, a dream Tour and we just continue and, hopefully, we can add another one,” Philipsen said. “I think from now I’m looking to Paris also.”
Philipsen was given the nickname by Alexander Kristoff when they raced together because he caused a lot of crashes.
“Then he was a little clumsy. And he also forgot a lot of things,” Kristoff told Het Laatste Nieuws. “Then he lost his sunglasses, or couldn’t find his toiletry bag, or forgot his shoes. He was often a disaster, a disaster. The nickname was meant as a joke, not an insult.”
Philipsen made no such mistake when Cavendish hit the front in the finale. He calmly returned onto his wheel and overtook Cavendish to deny the rider known as the “Manx Missile” a record 35th Tour stage win.
Cavendish equalled Merckx’s record of 34 wins on the 2021 Tour, 13 years after his first success. Cavendish, who has never won the Tour, unlike five-time champion Merckx, will retire at the end of the season.
“He (Cavendish) was really strong and I would have also loved to have seen him win, and I think everybody,” Philipsen said. “He’s up there, in good condition.”
After two gruelling days of brutal climbing across the Pyrenees, the super flat 170-kilometre (105-mile) Stage 7 looked like the perfect occasion for the main contenders to enjoy a day off inside the peloton.
Vingegaard and Pogacar's relaxed effort
And they made the most of it to relax.
Vingegaard waved to TV cameras and blew kisses to fans, while second-placed Tadej Pogacar chatted with Van der Poel on the long sections across the Landes forest. On a very hot day in southwestern France, Van der Poel and Philipsen put ice cubes in their jerseys.
After their epic duel over the past couple of days in the Pyrenees, Vingegaard and Pogacar were happy to rest their legs but remain vigilant in the last 30 kilometres when the race animated ahead of the final sprint.
There was no major changes in the general classification: Vingegaard kept his 25-second lead over the two-time champion. Jai Hindley remained in third place, 1 minute, 34 seconds off the pace.
It was a bit unclear at the start of the stage whether the breakaway ignited by the quartet of Simon Guglielmi, Nelson Oliveira, Mathieu Burgeaudeau and Jonas Abrahamsen would grow bigger, but no other rider looked interested in joining their collective effort.
One by one, following their team’s instructions via radio connected to their earpieces, the fugitives sat on, leaving Guglielmi alone at the front.
Given the profile of the stage, Guglielmi’s breakaway was born dead since it looked certain from the start that he would be caught once the sprinters’ teams launched the chase. But it put the French rider in the spotlight, with the bunch riding at a casual pace until the intermediate sprint, with 82 kilometres left.
Escaping from the bunch in chase
Guglielmi was caught further down the road after Pierre Latour and Nans Peters escaped from the bunch in the chase. After Guglielmi got dropped, the pair prolonged their effort for a while but were ultimately swallowed.
Saturday’s hilly Stage 8 from Libourne to Limoges in central France could favour a breakaway before the fight resumes between Pogacar and Vingegaard during Sunday’s ascent of the Puy de Dome.