Jasper Philipsen backed up to stay atop the sprinters in the men’s peloton after blasting his way into the A-list category on tremendous form.
The Belgian took six wins in his final 15 days of racing of the 2021 season – including at one point four spectacular victories in as many racing days – and he continued to win in the new campaign, triumphing twice in the UAE February round.
His form is a further demonstration of the promise and potential the Alpecin-Fenix rider had shown over the past five years, now regularly beating Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExchange-Jayco).
What drives Philipsen is his innate desire to succeed, a trait that has followed him throughout his life.
“I don’t like to lose,” said the 24-year-old weekly cycling a few days from Paris-Nice, the race in which he is currently participating.
“That’s how I am. It was always the same when I was young and playing football. When a game didn’t go the way I wanted, I was crying on the pitch. I had that mentality winner who didn’t leave me.”
Philipsen spent two years in the WorldTour with UAE-Team Emirates, claiming four victories, including his first Grand Tour success at the Vuelta a España.
But it’s been since descending to ProTeam level with his current squad in 2021 that he’s been able to ramp up and show his worth on a more regular basis, highlights of which have included two Vuelta wins and a win. at Scheldeprijs, a one-day semi-classic that is dubbed the world sprinter championships.
Still hungry, Philipsen is happy but not satisfied. “At the end of last year I had some great wins, but I feel like I’m not there yet,” he added.
“I’m still capable of doing other things too, which I believe I will do. I think I can be happy with last year, but I want to repeat that success, confirm all the wins.
“Every sprint you learn something new, but every situation is different, so you can take different things out of it.
“We’re just trying to do everything right, and the competitions have been going well lately. I’ve shown that I’m capable of winning, and of course it’s always nice to beat the big names because it means you do well.”
Fabio Jakobsen’s six wins already this season puts him in a league of his own as the fittest sprinter in cycling right now, but Philipsen is undoubtedly second in the form rankings.
Put it to him if he and Jakobsen will forge a rivalry probably last seen in cycling nearly a decade ago when Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel were in their prime, a confident Philipsen might see merit in the thought.
“We will see in the years to come,” he said. “It’s quite important [such rivalries] and if we can keep improving, keep winning again and again like these guys did…
“Of course the ambition is to win as much as possible. I can’t say if that will happen because there are a lot of fast men in the peloton, but I try to do the best I can and give everything I can. I have.” .”
In the meantime, Philipsen can look back on the UAE Tour with happiness. “The level of the sprinters was quite high”, he added, “so it was not easy to go there with the hope of winning, but in the end we won twice”.
After Paris-Nice comes a series of Classics, before continuing on the Tour de France where he hopes to climb on six podiums during the 2021 edition.
“If I am selected, and I expect it, I will aim for stage victories on the Tour”, he confirmed.