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Jasper Philipsen: A Tour de France stage, that is a super big goal

ALBACETE SPAIN AUGUST 18 Jasper Philipsen of Belgium and Team AlpecinFenix celebrates at finish line as stage winner during the 76th Tour of Spain 2021 Stage 5 a 1844km stage from Tarancn to Albacete lavuelta LaVuelta21 on August 18 2021 in Albacete Spain Photo by Stuart FranklinGetty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Ask Jasper Philipsen what his biggest objectives will be for the 2022 season and he barely poises for breath. 

“A Tour de France stage, that is a super big goal,” he tells Cyclingnews in an exclusive interview. 

It’s understandable that the Alpecin-Fenix sprinter is so keen to make his mark in the Tour, and not just because it’s cycling’s biggest bike race. Last July, Philipsen racked-up six top-three finishes in France, including three second places, without ever hitting the bullseye.

“My best form of all this last year was in the Tour, particularly after doing the altitude training camp,” Philipsen says. “I was feeling really good but the level was really high and the win didn’t happen.”

What did happen in 2021, however, were victories elsewhere for Philipsen – lots of them. Nine of his 14 career triumphs have come this season, including the first win in the Scheldeprijs for Belgium since Tom Boonen triumphed in the midweek Classic way back in 2006.

Philipsen also won two stages of the Vuelta a España, and enjoyed a golden period of four victories this autumn in a little over a week, including Germany’s biggest one-day race, the GP Eschborn-Frankfurt. 

It all helped contribute to Alpecin-Fenix’s hugely impressive total of 33 wins this season. 

“I would say it’s partly to do with age,” Philipsen says by way of explaining his own progress. 

“I had two years with UAE Team Emirates but at 23, normally my best years are ahead of me. I’m growing as a rider and growing as a sprinter, and I hope I can maintain this evolution.

“Then for sure, being in a team based on Classics and sprinter types give me an extra boost as well, thanks to the very good equipment we have and the strength of the team as a whole.”

The success of Philipsen and of the Alpecin-Fenix team is sometimes eclipsed by the enormous interest swirling around Mathieu van der Poel. But nine different riders from Alpecin-Fenix won races this year and, as teammate Xandro Meurisse reminded fans after his success in the squad’s last event of the year, the Giro del Veneto: “Van der Poel is the biggest rider in the team, but it’s not only about him.”

“Alpecin-Fenix is getting better and better, Philipsen says. 

"For sure Mathieu is a big part of this success, he was behind this team’s creation a little bit, and without him it would be almost impossible for this team to have happened. 

“I think for the future, we’ll get more and more good riders in the team. But it’s impossible for us to make big steps forward every year like the one we’ve taken this year.”

Having taken his own major step this year, Philipsen’s previous career high point came in the Vuelta a España 2020, when he took a stage win in the third week. But although it was a nice way to round out his time at UAE before changing over to Alpecin-Fenix, he says he didn’t get a massive boost of confidence as a result for 2021.

“I wouldn’t say that, more that I was very motivated to win,” he says. “It’s not so easy to take a stage in a Grand Tour and I had to wait a long time to get it. I just hoped it would be the first of a lot of Grand Tour victories for me.”

SCHOTEN BELGIUM APRIL 07 Arrival Jasper Philipsen of Belgium and Team AlpecinFenix Celebration during the 109th Scheldeprijs 2021 Mens Elite a 1942km race from Terneuzen to Schoten SP21 FlandersClassic on April 07 2021 in Schoten Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The Vuelta proved to be a happy hunting ground for Philipsen again this summer, as he took two stage wins in four days in the first week. He then had to abandon at the start of the second due to illness.

Yet most clouds have silver linings and given how he then turned things around in those one-day races in September, he agrees the obligatory easing back caused by his abandon allowed him the breathing space he needed to finish the year on a high.

“After doing all the Tour de France at my age, just 23, it’s pretty hard to finish the two Grand Tours, and I know that my Vuelta shape was not so good. I struggled and suffered there and that had something to do with the sickness I picked up later on for sure,” he says.

“Afterwards I had some time to recover to build up to other goals in the season and that helped me. If I had gone all the way through to the end of the Vuelta I don’t think I would have been so good later on.”

In 2022 Philipsen will be a year older and stronger but he is cautious about the prospect of doing two Grand Tours next season.

“I’m not sure about that. For sure, I could do one to try for stages, that’ll depend on the schedule that they put me on. For sure, the Tour is the top of my own list, but the Giro or Vuelta would be possible as well.”

Apart from that elusive Tour stage win, Philipsen’s priority in 2022 is to have “consistency, and being up there with the good sprinters. There is a lot of pressure with the better results of course, the team will want me to be at least as good as this year.

“But I think that’s normal," he explains. "I like to ride for the wins and if they don’t happen I’d also be disappointed. Ambition always brings extra pressure, so there’s no need for that pressure to drop.”

As for whether he needs to reach a decision about focusing on bunch sprints and stage wins or honing his one-day Classic potential more, Philipsen says the idea is to move forward in both areas “but without going over the top on ambitions and objectives."

“We can’t stop working on my general development in the Classics, so we’ll focus on that a bit. But my main talent is sprinting, so for sure we’ll want to get the best out of that.”

Which in practical terms means “winning as much as possible.” And if one of those victories finally comes in the Tour, he won’t be complaining.

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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.