If Albert Philipsen isn’t already on your radar, he really should be

The future looks very bright for the 17-year-old Dane.

Matt de Neef
by Matt de Neef 22.09.2023 Photography by
Cor Vos
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There were a bunch of big stories that came out of last month’s ‘Super Worlds’ in Glasgow. Storming rides from Mathieu van der Poel and Lotte Kopecky in the elite road races, for example, and likewise from Tom Pidcock and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot in the cross-country MTB.

But one rider who didn’t make as many headlines as he probably should have was then-16-year-old Albert Withen Philipsen. The young Dane won the U19 men’s road race solo by more than a minute, becoming the youngest-ever rider to take the junior world title. Less than a week later, he won the Worlds cross-country Olympic (XCO) MTB race as well, finishing almost a minute clear of his closest rival. Philipsen’s talent and potential were plain to see.

Just this week, the emerging multi-disciplinary talent has added another victory to his increasingly impressive palmares, taking out the U19 men’s time trial at the European Championships in the Netherlands. And again, no one got particularly close to beating him: on a course of less than 20 km, Philipsen was fastest by 47 seconds – almost 2 km/h faster than silver medalist Jørgen Nordhagen (Norway).

For context: while 47 seconds separated first and second, the same margin separated second and 20th. And for further context, Philipsen’s time would have been good enough for bronze in the U23 men’s ITT, which was held on the same course as the U19s. Philipsen only turned 17 at the start of September.

A cyclist rides a time trial in red and black kit with a black aero helmet and white socks.
Philipsen on his way to European Championships gold.

As it currently stands, Philipsen is the Danish U19 champion in four disciplines: cyclocross, cross-country MTB, road racing, and ITT. As noted, he’s the U19 world champion in the road race and cross-country MTB, and he’s now the European champion in cross-country MTB and ITT.

And Philipsen’s medal haul from the 2023 Euros likely isn’t over. He’s due to start the U19 men’s road race for Denmark on Saturday where, based on recent performances, he’s going to be pretty hard to beat.

A cyclist in the white and blue jersey of European champion stands on a podium, holding a gold medal that's strung around his neck with a blue strap.
Expect more podium time in Philipsen’s future.

Philipsen started riding at age five, and it was the mountain bike that first captured his imagination. Twelve years later, having branched out into a range of disciplines, the 17-year-old knows what he wants from cycling. Here’s what he said to the media after winning the Worlds road race last month:

“It’s a very good step towards my dream of becoming a pro, both on the road and on the mountain bike. I try to be a versatile athlete, I like all different disciplines. It keeps it interesting for me.

“I hope to become a professional cyclist and enjoy what I do. I really look up to guys who do the same as me, so guys who combine different disciplines. Guys like Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert and Tom Pidcock. Those are my idols.” 

Philipsen won the junior men’s road race a decade after one of his idols, Mathieu van der Poel. Other former junior world champs include Quinn Simmons, Remco Evenepoel, Felix Gall, Matej Mohorič, Jasper Stuyven, and Diego Ulissi.

Philipsen currently rides MTB and cyclocross for the Canyon CLLCTV XCO team, and on the road he’s part of the Tscherning Cycling Academy, an “elite junior team” out of Copenhagen “with ambitions to create future cyclists through professional and focused talent work.”

Based on his performances over the past 12 months – and especially in Glasgow – it’s hard to imagine that a bunch of WorldTour teams haven’t expressed an interest in recruiting Philipsen. Related: Philipsen is now represented by A&J All Sports, a sports management agency that has looked after the likes of Tadej Pogačar, Vincenzo Nibali, Chris Froome, and Fabio Aru in recent years.

There’s been no news of Philipsen signing anywhere yet, which is probably not a bad thing – he’s only just turned 17. That said, it wouldn’t be a shock to soon learn that he’s signed a pre-contract with a big road team, maybe with a year or two in an associated development team before stepping up to the big leagues.

But while Philipsen might be young, he already has an idea of how he might specialise when it comes to road cycling. “I think that I am a classic rider,” he told Denmark’s TV2 before the Glasgow Super Worlds.

In that same interview, Philipsen spoke further about his desire to race multiple disciplines, sharing a very lofty goal in the process. “I kind of have a dream of one day becoming world champion in all the different disciplines.”

By “all the different disciplines” he presumably means road, XCO MTB, and cyclocross. None of his idols – Van der Poel, Van Aert, or Pidcock – have yet managed to win elite world titles in all three of those disciplines. Indeed the only rider to have done so is Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, a feat the Frenchwoman managed in the space of just one remarkable year (2014-15).

In all likelihood, it’ll be a few years yet before we see Albert Philipsen competing in the biggest races at the elite level, and several years after that before he’s got a realistic chance of winning. And that’s assuming he continues on the trajectory he’s currently on. Even for the most prodigious riders, there’s a vast chasm between world-beating junior rider and world-beating elite rider (it took Remco Evenepoel four years to go from junior world champion to elite world champion).

In the meantime though, if you’re someone who likes keeping an eye on the stars of tomorrow, and you aren’t already tracking Philipsen’s progress, now’s the time to start.

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