Jasper Philipsen is undoubtedly one of the most exciting sprinters in the men's peloton right now. In the 2022 Tour de France, he showcased his prowess by claiming victory in two stages, one in Carcassonne and the other on the Champs-Élysées. Continuing his Grand Tour success, Philipsen began this year's Tour with a bang, triumphing on stage three in Bayonne, before following this up with another win in Nogaro, adding two more impressive victories to his proliferate palmarés.
Before the 25-year-old rider headed off to race the Tour, he spoke to Rouleur about his proudest achievements, coming back from disappointment and what it's like to race against your biggest sporting heroes.
What is your proudest achievement?
Victory on the Champs-Élysées last year at the Tour de France. It’s something that always stays in my mind. It was so special to finish first at the end of the Tour on the biggest street in Paris.
Did you expect it?
It’s hard to say. I was still in shape after a hard Tour so I was confident. It’s not easy to be sure though, I was more certain during stage 19 to Cahors that I would win but then I lost that day and was second, so it’s hard to know.
Is one of your strengths that you can come back from disappointment?
That’s possible. I try to never give up, always get better and slowly make progress. I’m not the type of rider like Tadej Pogačar who is immediately at the very top when they turn professional. I needed some years to get better and find my place. I’m doing well in the sprints now but also the Classics were good this year, with second place in Paris-Roubaix. This is something I can work on for the future.
The Belgian rider came second behind his teammate Mathieu van der Poel in the legendary Paris-Roubaix Classics race (Zac Williams/SWpix.com)
What do you need to improve on?
I think it’s just age. I need to get stronger, get more training volume in the body and do long races like the Tour de France. You get better slowly. I think with my age I’m still growing to the top level.
What’s your earliest memory of riding a bike?
I think I was 12 years old. I’d never ridden with cycling cleats so I was struggling and I crashed. I didn’t have my own race bike so I borrowed one from a guy and I crashed immediately. I felt a bit sorry but that was my first impression of cycling. Not such a good one.
When did you realise you wanted to become a professional rider?
I think when you start racing as a young kid you always dream of being professional one day and make a job from your hobby. I believed it more when I was a junior that I could, one day, try to be professional and compete at the highest level. At first I was actually more of a time-trial specialist. I was always a bit fast but maybe not the fastest. That shifted when I turned professional and I realised my strength was sprinting.
Where is your favourite place to ride a bike?
I like it in Tenerife and also in Denia where we do our training camp. It’s good to change it up and not do the same old roads. In Belgium where I’m from, the training isn’t the best. It’s cold and there are no mountains where I live, so I have to escape to a better climate and landscapes.
If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Pasta. I could eat pasta every day. Carbonara or with bolognese, I like it all.
How long would you last on a deserted island?
I would go crazy, I think, being the only person all alone. I don’t think I would do well spending so much time on my own there.
Who is your sporting hero?
I had guys like Tom Boonen, Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan as heroes in cycling growing up. I was also interested in soccer, watching superstars like Messi.
You’re now sprinting against Cavendish. Is that surreal?
I always treat him with a lot of respect. I always looked up to him and it’s insane that I now sprint against him at the Tour on the highest level. It’s good to learn from a sprint master like him — that’s priceless.
Jasper Philipsen won the 2023 Scheldeprijs, beating his sporting hero Mark Cavendish (Zac Williams/SWPix.com)
When the off season starts, what is your favourite food or drink to have?
I try to eat as healthy as possible during specific parts of the season, like in the build-up towards the Tour, but I’m not that focused. I also try to enjoy it. I’ll eat french fries or sushi, for example. I don’t do anything spectacular during the off season but I just let myself eat what I want. Maybe I go more crazy on the alcohol.
Are you a good chef?
No, but fortunately I have a nice girlfriend who can really cook well.
When you aren’t racing or training, what are you doing?
I like to relax, lay in the sun. I don’t have specific hobbies, but I like to do varied other stuff outside of cycling. Maybe bowling, a bit of golf, watching movies, going to restaurants.
What was the last TV show you watched?
A TV show we watch every Sunday is The Mole in Belgium. They broadcast it every year where a group of candidates have to uncover the mole in the group.
What’s something you don’t like about cycling?
Safety is something that keeps you awake at night in cycling. Crashes and stuff like that. You don’t always have things under control in the peloton in races or in the traffic when training. Also, being a professional athlete, you’re always 24/7 thinking about what decisions you’re making. Everything you do, you have to remember you’re an athlete. You’re not free at 5 o’clock to do what you want — you have to always have in mind that you have to take care of your body.
What do you sing in Karaoke?
Probably the Backstreet Boys.
*Cover image by Alex Whitehead/SWPix.com