More disaster for Jasper: Philipsen needs to turn his Tour de France around

The Alpecin-Deceuninck rider had another difficult day after being relegated in stage six of the Tour de France

Things are not going well for Jasper Philipsen. Last year’s four-time Tour de France stage winner and Netflix superstar has had a fall from grace. 

Philipsen’s frustration at the end of stage six of this year’s Tour was clear for all to see. Reporters crowded around the Alpecin-Deceuninck rider at the finish in Dijon as he doubled over his bike a few minutes after crossing the line in second place, out-lunged by Jayco-Alula’s Dylan Groenewegen. They waited as Philipsen took some long, deep breaths, expecting an interview afterwards. But there was only one word that came from the Belgian rider’s sweaty lips: “F*ck!” he shouted before hitting the bonnet of the car next to him in frustration and riding quickly in the other direction. Jasper Philipsen is no longer winning. And that is a problem.

Two second places in two back-to-back sprint stages of this year’s Tour de France is frustrating in itself, but Philipsen’s fortunes only worsened as this afternoon rolled on. Once the UCI commissaires had an opportunity to review the sprint finish, the decision was made to relegate Philipsen for deviating from his line during the sprint, something which caused Visma-Lease a Bike’s Wout van Aert to have to pull on his brakes. The demotion to 107th place is one thing, but the even bigger sting is that Philipsen was also docked 13 points in the green jersey competition for this year’s Tour. There’s a lot of work to be done to get things back on track.

“We only got a phone call from the UCI with the message that he was disqualified. There was no further comment, it was just a simple message. He is disqualified, we will read it later today about why it happened. Until the declassification we were very close again [to the green jersey] and now it is suddenly far away again. It is no longer in our own hands,” Alpecin-Deceuninck team manager Christoph Roodhooft said after the stage.

“I’ve only seen it one time loading on the iPad so I didn’t really have my own opinion on it at the moment. Jasper is disappointed. He was twice second, it was all ok until now. Winning a stage is not easy and from the two chances he got he didn’t do badly.”

Image: ASO/Charly Lopez

A lack of race victory is one thing, but Philipsen’s reputation in the peloton is also steadily becoming damaged by the controversy that seems to follow the 26-year-old around. He was shown in last year’s Tour de France: Unchained series as being criticised for his sprinting style and riders in the peloton have started to speak out against his actions. 

“That is not a professional way to close the door. He must have felt that I was sitting next to him. But he did this last year in the Tour and now he is doing it again,” Wout van Aert said to Sporza after today’s stage.

“I'm especially glad that I stayed upright. But if there's no sanction, that makes me angry. They shouldn't throw him out of the Tour, but he should be declassified. Today you saw one crazy stunt after another in those last kilometres. If they don't punish severely, everyone thinks that anything goes. That is becoming an increasingly bigger problem.”

A few hundred metres down the road from Van Aert speaking to media, the Alpecin-Deceuninck area in the team paddock was alive with the drama of it all. Curtains were drawn on the team bus before the likes of Roodhooft came out to address the crowds of people who waited outside: “It’s fallen apart everywhere,” he stated.

But the Tour will continue, regardless of Alpecin-Deceuninck's disappointment. Trying to refocus after a relegation is one thing, but Philipsen will now also need to consider his actions in hectic finishes as this Tour de France continues and more opportunities for the fast men arise. Sprinting is all about moving on instinct. Fast reactions and confident decision-making is crucial – overthinking is not an option.

The saying goes that winning a bunch kick is as much a mental battle as it is a physical one, and Philipsen’s mentality will have taken a battering after the tension of stage six. Coming back from this will be a significant challenge for the 26-year-old.

Neither Philipsen, or the man who pays his wages Christoph Roodhooft, will be happy to leave the Tour de France empty-handed and the clock is ticking to make amends – a stage victory will silence doubters and put a stop to all the noise that surrounds the Belgian sprinter. The Tour de France can make and break riders, and it is testing Jasper Philipsen. Time will tell if he can handle the heat.

Cover image: Zac Williams/SWpix

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