[‘We don’t give any presents’ – Jasper Philipsen keeps Mark Cavendish waiting for Tour de France record
The stage was set in Bordeaux. 13 years had passed since the city welcomed a Tour de France stage, when Mark Cavendish sprinted to victory at the 2010 edition. One question hummed in the air. Could he do it again, break the all-time record? Had it not been for Jasper Philipsen’s turn of pace, he might well have done.
Under the baking French sun, the Belgian took his third win from as many bunch sprints at this year’s Tour. Cavendish settled for second.
There was a certain irony in it, really, Philipsen revealed afterwards. The morning of the race, the Alpecin-Deceuninck rider had studied videos of Cavendish’s sprint in 2010. The knowledge he acquired, he used to beat him.
“[The video] looks like ages ago,” Philipsen told the press. “It’s just crazy that he’s still racing and fighting for victories. It’s amazing how he can continue in this moment, on the highest level, fighting for his 35th stage win in the Tour. Hats off to him.”
For some, the record-breaking victory looked sealed outside Bordeaux’s Palais de la Bourse. A dash down the right side of the road caught the rest of the sprint field by surprise, and a gap opened to Cavendish.
“I saw him go past me and I said, ‘Oh my god, he’s not going to take his 35th victory, is he?’,” Philipsen said. In the end, he wasn’t. Instinctively, the Belgian kicked down on his pedals, the gap closed, and suddenly he found himself in front.
He took a glance to his right, a glance to his left, and threw his first in the air, marking another victory, and leaving Cavendish waiting for his.
“We don’t give any presents,” the Belgian said, before turning to compliment his opponent. “It’s insane that he was up there, and really hats off to him. It’s a pleasure to fight against him for victory.”
Philipsen’s win will stand as a show of clinical professionalism. After waiting 15 stages for a breakthrough victory last year, he has now won three by stage seven. Could Jasper the Disaster become Jasper the Master and set his own records at the race? “That’s still too far out,” he replied, and besides, history-making is Cavendish’s domain.
“He’s the best sprinter of all time,” Philipsen said, stamping it as a matter of fact.