Jasper Philipsen anticipates challenging Tour de France green jersey defence

Jasper Philipsen, the Milan-San Remo winner from Alpecin-Deceuninck, is gearing up for the Baloise Belgium Tour starting Wednesday. This will be his first race since Paris-Roubaix as he gets ready to defend the green jersey at the Tour de France.

The Belgian sprinter dominated last year’s Tour, claiming four stage wins thanks to superb lead-outs from Mathieu van der Poel and the rest of his Alpecin-Deceuninck team. This five-day stage race offers an important opportunity for Philipsen to regain his race rhythm after a two-month training break at altitude.

“In the past, I have also taken part in races such as Eschborn-Frankfurt, but that was not often a success,” Philipsen mentioned at a pre-race press conference covered by In De Leidestrui. “I have watched a lot of races on TV, so I’m looking forward to getting back into action myself. Still, in view of this summer’s goals, it made the most mental and physical sense to take a two-month break.”

Philipsen is not the only top sprinter at the event. He will be joined by Tim Merlier from Soudal Quick-Step and Olav Kooij from Visma-Lease a Bike. Despite this being a preparation race for the Tour, Philipsen remains ambitious. “You always try to aim as high as possible, but we start with perhaps one victory,” he stated.

The 26-year-old also stars in Netflix’s second season of Tour de France: Unchained, where he and his team members, including Van der Poel, are depicted as the drama’s antagonists due to their aggressive sprint tactics. Van der Poel, who won last year’s Baloise Belgium Tour overall, will not be racing this time. Instead, he plans to return at the Tour before competing in the Paris Olympics. His aggressive lead-out skills will be missed, but Philipsen is eager to have the World Champion’s support at the Tour.

“We did some sprint training, that went well, so I don’t think there are any surprises. A bigger surprise for me was that Mathieu [Van der Poel’s] programme will also go through the Tour this year, so I was very satisfied with that,” Philipsen said. “When you see how successful that was last year, you see that we can use him very well again.”

However, Philipsen acknowledged that Van der Poel may not be involved in every sprint, similar to 2023. Still, he assured that the Dutchman will contribute as much as possible. In case Van der Poel isn’t involved, Philipsen has a capable lead-out train with Jonas Rickaert and Robbe Ghys, both of whom are racing this week and are experienced in bunch sprint finishes.

Philipsen admitted uncertainty about his current form but confirmed his intention to pursue the green jersey once again after dominating the classification in 2023. “It’s hard to estimate [my current form]. We had a good altitude training, but it will be difficult to repeat what we did last year. We have had the right preparation to make that possible again, so why not?” he said.

“The green jersey is again the ambition,” he told HLN. “But everything will have to go well from the start and the last stages are of course also tough, so you have to be good enough for that. I haven’t yet thought about whether I will race to Nice if I am not in the green, so the moment itself will have to tell.”