‘He told me he was going to win’ - Jasper Philipsen has a champion’s mentality

The Alpecin-Deceuninck rider showed his mental strength by overcoming adversity to win on stage 10 of the Tour de France

Three days ago, after stage six of the Tour de France, there was shouting coming from the Alpecin-Deceuninck team bus. The curtains on the entrance to the bus were drawn and the windows were blacked out but that couldn’t mark the unmistakable cry of “godverdomme!” (the Dutch equivalent to ‘fuck’) which was swiftly followed by the sound of something being thrown and clattering on the floor. It was Jasper Philipsen who was the culprit: he’d just been relegated for irregular sprinting after finishing second on the stage to Biniam Girmay. Everything was going wrong. The Belgian rider’s Tour de France was slipping between his fingers.

The interviews were given and the headlines were written: Philipsen was no longer the fastest rider in the world, and he was criticised heavily for his bolshy sprinting style to boot. He had the world champion leading him out in Mathieu van der Poel yet still Philipsen couldn’t do it. Things were not clicking, the confidence was not there. Before the next sprint opportunity, Philipsen had to find a way to come back from the bottom.

That day came on Tuesday, when the Tour offered a pan-flat day in central France to make up stage 10 of the race. There was talk of echelons and breakaways at the start, but the race ended up being a smooth, faultless run for the fast men –the peloton cruised through the balmy heat to Saint-Amand-Montrond before things started properly hotting up in the final kilometres for the sprint. For Philipsen, the way the stage played out before the finale was of little significance at all: he simply needed a clear run at the finish line so he could show everyone what he does best.

“He was super relaxed this morning, he was even looking forward to echelons if they happened, this is typical of Jasper and also Mathieu,” Philipsen’s teammate, Gianni Vermeersch said after the race. “They really like a hard race. Before the stage we knew he was in good form.”

The laughing and joking in the peloton during the stage was the first sign: Philipsen was relaxed and ready. Then came the intermediate sprint win, further proof of his form. When the time eventually rolled round to sprint for the finish, the 26-year-old and his team executed it to perfection. There were two sharp corners before the line and Van der Poel gave his sprinter an armchair ride until the last few hundred metres when Philipsen just had to produce a few trademark strong pedal strokes and the long-awaited, much-needed, highly-anticipated win was his.

“Today, Jasper was confident. He told me during the stage that he was going to win so I knew his confidence level was back where he needed it,” Silvan Dillier said after the race – the Swiss rider had played an important role in the earlier stages of Philipsen’s lead out.

“Confidence is something you can learn to build on your own but the team did a really good job. The team, the staff, the riders, we are all fully committed to him and we showed him on multiple occasions already this Tour that we believe in him. It was also a topic in our meetings so I think the team in general did a really good job to put him in a mental state where he was confident,” Dillier continued.

Part of the pressure on Philipsen to win today comes from his straight-talking team boss, Christoph Roodhooft. The Belgian is known for his strict management style and no-nonsense approach, but he has succeeded in guiding Philipsen this Tour to success.

“The rest the day did well for the whole team, we could talk with each other without talking too much about cycling in general and this was all good for us. We did not change anything in the lead out today,” Roodhooft said. “When we won Milan-Sanremo it was easy for us to start in Flanders and Roubaix. It’s like this for everyone, when we start to win it gets easier. It was a magnificent lead out today and Jasper took his momentum at the right moment.”

For Philipsen himself, the relief when he crossed the finish line was palpable: he punched the air with visceral joy and cut a happy figure at his post-race press conference. The Alpecin-Deceuninck rider is firmly back where he wants to be: on the top step of the podium.

“It’s never easy to win, we saw that last week. It was a shit week and some tough times actually, it didn’t work out completely. To win it may look easy but we know how difficult it is,” Philipsen said. “We have a strong team for these kinds of finals. Mathieu has super good bike handling skills and a technical final is always the advantage for him and for our team. I put pressure on myself as I wanted to win. Last year when I won four times and got the green jersey as well – you know it’s going to be tough to repeat that. It’s never easy and doesn’t come from nothing, you have to work hard for it.”

After the first week of this Tour de France, following all the controversy surrounding him, the odds were against Jasper Philipsen to get things back on track. Despite it all, he did so on today’s hot, flat stage from Orléans, and this is exactly what Alpecin-Deceuninck needed. Philipsen has shown he can still deliver when it matters, and the confidence this would have given him should not be underestimated. There are still sprint chances to come, the green jersey is still up for grabs and Jasper Philipsen is well and truly back.

Shop now