Mathieu van der Poel once again proved his weight in gold after helping Alpecin-Deceuninck team-mate Jasper Philipsen to another win on the Tour de France.
A finish littered with crashes on the Nogaro motor racing circuit in Southwest France saw Philipsen sprint to a second successive win while underlying his status as the fastest man on this year’s Tour de France.
And once again, it was Philipsen Dutch team-mate Van der Poel who provided the spark after the 25-year-old sprinter found himself isolated on the chaotic closing circuit that animated an otherwise uneventful Stage 4.
Tour de France
‘It’s on the throw!’ – Philipsen wins intermediate sprint to continue fine form
3 HOURS AGO
Once reunited with Van der Poel, Philipsen was launched at just the right moment and managed to hold off a late surge from Australia’s Caleb Ewan (Lotto Dstny) and Germany’s Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious).
Frenchman Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) and Britain’s Mark Cavendish (Astana-Qazaqstan) completed the top five but European champion Fabio Jakobsen (Soudal-QuickStep) was among a cluster of riders who hit the deck in a series of separate incidents in the tense final kilometres.
Philipsen’s second win on the Tour propelled him to the top of the green jersey standings, which he leads over Sunday’s Stage 2 winner Victor Lafay (Cofidis) by 150 points to the Frenchman’s 80 points.
The 182km stage from Dax had no impact on the general classification, with Britain’s Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates) retaining his six-second lead over Slovenian team-mate Tadej Pogacar going into two days in the Pyrenees.
On a cloudy and overcast day of very little drama, it was not until the halfway point, once Philipsen had won the intermediate sprint, that a proper breakaway formed as two riders took advantage of a brief lull to go clear.
Prior to that, no one had taken advantage of a far larger lull as the peloton trundled along at an average pace of under 38km/h – save for a momentarily flourish from Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and a handful of fellow Belgian riders with around 120km remaining.
Perhaps drawing inspiration from the notorious all-Belgian breakaway that animated an otherwise uneventful stage in Paris-Nice two years ago, a cluster of Lowlanders latched onto Van Aert’s acceleration to cause a momentary split in the pack. But the excitement was not to last, and only a few kilometres later the race was back together and Van Aert mincing at the back of the peloton.
Philipsen’s victory in the intermediate sprint, however, was followed by an attack from Anthony Delaplace (Arkea-Samsic) and Benoit Cosnefroy (AG2R-Citroen) – an attack which finally resulted in some daylight emerging between the instigators and the peloton behind.
The French duo established a maximum lead of just over one minute over rolling roads that saw the Soudal-QuickStep, Alpecin-Deceuninck and Jayco-AlUla teams of Jakobsen, Philipsen and Dylan Groenewegen come to the front to keep a lid on the threat.
No sooner had Delaplace led his compatriot over the summit of the only categorised climb, the Cat.4 Cote de Demu, than the duo was swept up by the pack with 25km remaining.
Tensions gradually rose to breaking point ahead of the finishing circuit, with a narrow gated entry stringing out the peloton ahead of the decisive final 3km of racing.
Jakobsen was one of the first riders to go down as a series of spills tore through the peloton and disrupted practically all the lead-out trains. Philipsen himself found himself separated from his team-mates until Van der Poel emerged as his shining knight in armour to usher him to the front and set up a second successive win despite some late cramps and the threat posed by rival Ewan’s fast finish on the home straight.
“It was close in the end but I was happy they confirmed the result quickly,” Philipsen said, referring to the long time it took for the race jury to confirm his victory 24 hours earlier.
“It was a really easy stage – everybody wanted to save their legs for the Pyrenees tomorrow and the next day. There were lots of crashes on the finish circuit so I hope everyone is okay. It was a bit of a hectic final with the turns at the end.
“I lost my team but then I found Mathieu van der Poel on the finish straight and he did an amazing pull to get me to victory – but my legs were cramping and Caleb was coming close.”
Cavendish improved one place from his result in Bayonne but the British veteran will have to wait until Friday’s stage to Bordeaux for another chance at making history with that elusive 35th Tour stage win.
Wednesday’s 162.7km Stage 5 from Pau to Laruns features the first hors categorie climb of the Tour and should reignite the battle for both the polka dot jersey and, crucially, the yellow jersey – with 11 seconds currently separating the double winner Pogacar and defending champion Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma).
– – –
Tour de France
‘There are no presents’ – Philipsen reacts to Stage 3 victory
YESTERDAY AT 16:42
Tour de France
‘Oh my life!’ – Philipsen edges intense sprint finish on Stage 3 in Bayonne
YESTERDAY AT 16:33
Read the full article here