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Jasper Philipsen and Dylan Groenewegen duel for the line on stage 6 of the 2024 Tour de France.

Jasper Philipsen, relegated and still winless

Relegated for deviation and unable to close the deal, Philipsen is not having the Tour he hoped for.

Caley Fretz
by Caley Fretz 04.07.2024 Photography by
Gruber Images
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After this story published, Philipsen issued a statement from his team several hours post-stage. This story has been updated with that information.

Most concerning for the staff sitting in the Alpecin-Deceuninck team cars and, perhaps even more so, those mingling around outside with denim-colored flags, is that nothing went wrong for Jasper Philipsen on the run-in to Dijon. He just didn’t have it. Mathieu van der Poel dropped him off right where he needed to be, his wide elbows and rightward lean successfully kept Wout van Aert from coming by. But he couldn’t take up the whole road and Dylan Groenewegen was simply faster.

That’s two for two now. Two sprints, two good positions, zero wins. For the rider who took the first three sprint stages of last year’s Tour, and four of them in total, it’s a bad start. If a sprinter is boxed in or a lead-out flounders early that’s one thing; not having the legs when the road is open and the finish line is in sight is another entirely.

That bad start was made worse by relegation for deviation on Thursday; Philipsen was charged with closing the door a bit too firmly on Van Aert, dropping last year’s green jersey winner from second behind Groenewegen to 107th, back behind his own leadout man.

Van Aert didn’t mince words. “A bad habit,” he called the maneuver, suggesting it was no anomaly. “It wasn’t super dangerous, I could still get on the brakes. But I was next to him and he really went to the fences. He knew I was there, that’s not professional.” It means no green jersey points for Philipsen, pushing Philipsen 65 points behind Biniam Girmay after he was docked for the infraction. If Girmay can continue to drop himself into the top five this regularly, plus use his versatility to mop up intermediates, that gap will be increasingly difficult to pull back.

In a statement provided several hours post-stage by his Alpecin-Deceuninck team, Philipsen expressed surprise and disappointment, but maintained no ill intent. “Of course I’m incredibly disappointed,” he said. “First because I was narrowly beaten and couldn’t finish the perfect work of my teammates. Then even more because of the unexpected relegation.”

But the only surprising thing about Philipsen’s relegation was that it wasn’t his second in a row. Escape Collective understands that the UCI Jury made the rounds on Thursday morning to warn the various sprinters and their teams that the shenanigans of Stage 4, which saw both Philipsen and Cavendish significantly deviate from their lines, would not be tolerated. Lidl-Trek were none too pleased that the swings left from both – which could be indirectly tied to Mads Pedersen getting pushed into the barriers – were not penalized. Both Philipsen and Cavendish deviated further and more aggressively on Stage 5 than the relegation-worthy movement of Philipsen on Stage 6. But, you know. There was history to be made.

Philipsen’s statement also appeared to push back at Van Aert’s criticisms. “I try to be a fair sprinter, and have no intention of obstructing other riders, and certainly not bringing them into danger,” his statement read. “The jury feels I did today, and no doubt that will have been decided in good conscience.” He closed his statement saying he would keep fighting. “The condition is good and the team is doing a perfect job. There are still sprint opportunities to come and we definitely want to keep trying winning a stage.”

The ongoing hunt for a stage win won’t be easy. It’s a deep sprint field at this Tour de France. Philipsen has those of his generation to contend with – Girmay, Arnaud De Lie, and Pedersen are all here and riding well – plus the veterans are resurgent. There’s Cavendish and his win, of course, but also Fernando Gaviria with a second and third, Alexander Kristof with a third and eighth, and now Groenewegen with a win. Glance too quickly at today’s results sheet and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s 2018 again. We just need Peter Sagan back.

Still, it’s not yet panic stations. Five sprint stages remain, his team is still the strongest lead-out here, and he has Mathieu van der Poel. If Jasper Disaster can shake a bad habit or two, surely Jasper the Master is still in there somewhere.

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