Jasper Philipsen, the reigning Tour de France green jersey holder, is set to return to the race this weekend. Philipsen will once again form a formidable duo with his Alpecin-Deceuninck teammate, *Mathieu van der Poel*. However, the pair aren’t expecting immediate success as the event kicks off in Tuscany.

Last year, Philipsen won the third stage in Bayonne after two hilly stages in the Basque Country. This year, the race follows a similar pattern, with tough opening days to Rimini and Bologna ahead of a flatter stage 3 in Turin.

Three years ago, Van der Poel claimed the yellow jersey with a stage 2 win on the Mûr-de-Bretagne. This year, with 3,800 metres of climbing over seven major hills en route to Rimini, he remains cautious about repeating that feat.

“It depends on the racing and what other teams want to do,” Van der Poel said at a pre-race press conference in Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. “I haven’t done the recon of the stage, but it looks quite hard on paper. There will be a yellow jersey on the line so it won’t be easy.”

Van der Poel added, “The first two stages are quite hard. Last year, there was a question mark over whether it was possible and it was too hard. This year, it looks like it’ll be a bit too hard again. I’ve raced in this region before, and I know how hard it is. We’ll see, but it’s not a big goal for me.”

Jasper Philipsen
(Photo Credit: ASO)

Philipsen’s Sprint Aspirations

Philipsen mentioned that the team can “start without any stress” since the opening weekend isn’t suited to him or Van der Poel. The focus will shift to sprint wins and another attempt at the green jersey. Although there’s no grand finale on the Champs-Elysées this year, Philipsen sees plenty of opportunities for himself and other sprinters.

“Every year is heavy. The Tour is never easy. The stages are tough, but I think opportunities will arise,” Philipsen said. “I think the maximum opportunities for us as a team is maybe nine, including the gravel stage. But you also see some stages end with a breakaway. If we can do six sprints out of nine, that would be nice.”

Philipsen also noted that the absence of the Paris finale changes the mental game for sprinters. “With not going to Paris this year, it’s different. We have to suffer until the end if you want to win green. There are no final rewards waiting for us in Paris, but it’s still a nice Tour with nice opportunities.”

Philipsen anticipates a tough competition for the green jersey, with Mads Pedersen likely being his closest rival. “Probably, I think Mads will be one of my big competitors,” he said. “Maybe he hasn’t shown that he’s the best in pure sprints, but he’s a strong bike rider capable of getting points in all stages. If he’s putting his mind to it from stage 1, he’s a big rival.”

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Limited Chances for Van der Poel

While Philipsen eyes multiple sprint opportunities, Van der Poel acknowledges that his chances are more limited. He’ll again support his teammate on the pure sprint stages, but the parcours makes it challenging for Classics riders like himself.

“There are only a few chances for riders like me,” Van der Poel said. “For the sprint stages, we go for Jasper. For the stages that suit me, we go really hard, like in every Grand Tour. The easier stages have almost 3,000 metres of altitude, so it’s not easy anymore.”

Despite the challenges, Van der Poel plans to ride through to Nice, even with the Paris Olympic Games following shortly after the Tour. “It was quite relaxed to have a long preparation for the Tour,” he said. “Now, it’s going to be long for us with the Olympics after the Tour, so it was important to have those solid days. The plan is to go for the whole Tour and, if possible, try to win a stage myself. I’ll be there in the sprint stages for Jasper. It’s similar to last year, but I hope to take my chances if they arise.”