Tour de France 2024: Who can challenge Jasper Philipsen in the sprints?

A look at the fast men in contention for the crown of sprint king at this year's Tour

The Jasper Philipsen show with a sprinkling of Mark Cavendish gold dust? Is that going to be the story of the Tour de France sprints?

Up to eight stages of the 2024 race are predicted to go the way of the fast men – six of them look nailed on – and in contrast to May’s Giro d’Italia which was awash with big-name sprinters, the Tour’s sprint field isn’t as rich in experience and form. Therefore, the expectation is that Philipsen, winner of four stages 12 months ago, will retain his crown as the peloton’s most prolific sprinter. Brian Holm, a former sports director who has masterminded many Tour sprint victories in the past 15 years with the various guises of T-Mobile and Soudal–Quick-Step, told Rouleur that “Philipsen doesn’t have a true match in the Tour – and once he wins one he’ll be on a roll.”

But the Dane cautioned that “he could get injured – we see that happen all the time in the Tour – and if someone else wins the first sprint, they’ll have the morale and then the whole picture will be entirely different”. Assuming that the Alpecin-Deceuninck rider will have it all his own way disregards the convincing case to be made both against him and for the more than half a dozen rivals challenging him.

Read more: Tour de France favourites 2024: Who will win this year's yellow jersey?

Before we break down the chances of his direct competitors, it’s important to point out that despite winning Milan-Sanremo and finishing second at Paris-Roubaix, Philipsen hasn’t been in vintage form in the two stage races he has competed in this season: he was beaten twice by Jonathan Milan at Tirreno-Adriatico, while Tim Merlier bested him on two occasions at the recent Baloise Belgium Tour. Though neither Merlier nor Milan will be at the Tour, their repeated success against Philipsen underlined that the 26-year-old can be regularly beaten. It is also true that as dominant as he was at the 2023 Tour – he also won two stages in 2022 – there is not the same aura and air of invincibility around Philipsen that the likes of Marcel Kittel, André Greipel and Mark Cavendish once enjoyed; other sprinters know and believe they can outsprint Philipsen. So who is likely to do so this July?

Mark Cavendish

If recent form was the only indicator of potential success, then few people would be tipping Cavendish: the Briton, 39, has won only three times since joining Astana-Qazaqstan at the beginning of last season, and all three victories came against modest opposition.

Mark Cavendish

But this is Cavendish, the greatest sprinter of all time and a rider who has made a habit of proving people wrong. One only needs to look back to the 2021 Tour when against all odds he won four stages and the green jersey. And powering him on in his final Tour is not only the race’s best leadout train but a fanbase desperate for him to score a record-breaking 35th stage victory. No one should bet against him.

Arnaud De Lie

Born on a cattle farm, the Belgian almost single-handedly kept Lotto-Dstny in the WorldTour in his debut season in 2022 with nine wins, and the youngster (he celebrated his 22nd birthday in March) has continued to impress, especially in single-day racing.

Stocky and powerful, De Lie will be making his maiden Grand Tour appearance in the race and he doesn’t have too much experience racing against the world’s best, but he will have a dedicated leadout working in support of him. A victory on debut is more a probability than a mere possibility.

Mads Pedersen

The former world champion doesn’t class himself as an out-and-out sprinter, but Lidl-Trek’s star rider has won his fair share of sprints against more pure thoroughbreds. On the days that feature a notable amount of climbing and/or could be affected by wind – stages eight and 10 spring to mind as obvious candidates – 28-year-old Pedersen will be as much a favourite as Philipsen.

Mads Pedersen

Dylan Groenewegen

2018 and 2019 were the Dutchman’s peak years, and though he’s not been able to replicate the same level of consistency from those two seasons, Groenewegen has admirably kept the win tally ticking over every year since. The Jayco-Alula rider was victorious against some of his Tour rivals in May and June, and the recently-turned 31-year-old has been in contention for victories all season. He’s won five Tour de France stages across four of his six participations.

Sam Bennett

The Irishman who won the Tour’s green jersey in 2020 spectacularly returned to form at May’s Four Days of Dunkirk, winning four of the six stages (confusing, we know) and the overall title. Currently riding for Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale, it must be stated that Bennett’s opposition at Dunkirk was weak in comparison to what he’ll face at the Tour, but being a confidence athlete, he’d have taken a great deal of optimism from his success after struggling for form and fitness since 2021.

Sam Bennett

Fabio Jakobsen

Only a year ago Jakobsen was being spoken about in the same vein as Jasper Philipsen, but since injuring himself on stage four of last season’s race, very little has gone right for the Dutchman. He made the switch from Soudal–Quick-Step to DSM-Firmenich PostNL in the winter but he has been an obscure figure in pretty much every race he’s started, including the recent Giro d’Italia and Baloise Belgium Tour. It would take a big turnaround in fortunes for Jakobsen to be competitive, but there is no denying that he’s got the capabilities to once again win a stage.

Others to watch out for

Veteran Alexander Kristoff is still competitive at the age of 36, and his recent form – four victories in as many weeks – suggests that he could deliver Uno-X Mobility their first-ever Tour de France win. Fellow long-serving member of the peloton, Jayco-Alula’s Michael Matthews, can never be discounted, in particular on the lumpier days that end in a reduced sprint. Intermarché-Wanty’s Biniam Girmay, meanwhile, showcased some of his best-ever condition in May, and the one-time Giro d’Italia stage winner could form a potent partnership with rising star and teammate Gerben Thijssen. A mention should also go to Bahrain-Victorious’s Phil Bauhaus who has a proud record of flying under the radar despite occasionally winning WorldTour races, and regularly finishing second or third in Grand Tour sprints.

Chris Marshall-Bell

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