Tour de France 2023: Jasper Philipsen storms to first sprint stage win as Wout Van Aert edged out again

Tour de France 2023: Jasper Philipsen storms to first sprint stage win as Wout Van Aert edged out again

The man they call ‘Jasper Disaster’ almost lived up to his name in the final moments of Stage 3 of the Tour de France.

A highly contested sprint finish in Bayonne was apparently won by Belgium’s Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) ahead of Germany’s Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain-Victorious) and Australian pocket rocket Caleb Ewan (Lotto Dstny). But an apparent infraction led to a tense 10 minutes as the race jury studied replays to decide whether Philipsen had veered off his line and boxed out his compatriot Wout van Aert (Jumbo Visma) on the curved home straight.

Philipsen was even removed from the winner’s enclosure and into the jury headquarters for what seemed like an eternity – only to emerge with a smile on his face signalling the confirmation of the third Tour stage win of the 25-year-old’s career.

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The debate surrounded a slight deviation which caused a frustrated Van Aert to ease up by the barriers and drop to fifth place behind Dutchman Fabio Jakobsen (Soudal-QuickStep).

Mark Cavendish (Astana-Qazaqstan) missed out on an opportunity to take a record 35th stage win – but the veteran British sprinter showed encouraging signs in his quest for making history in his final Tour by taking a solid sixth place ahead of Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe), Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco-AlUla), Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) and Bryan Coquard (Cofidis).

Britain’s Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates) finished safely in the peloton to retain the yellow jersey for a third day, American Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) starred from the breakaway to retain the polka dot jersey, while France’s Victor Lafay (Cofidis) enjoyed a little cameo off the front to pick up enough points in the intermediate sprint to retain the green jersey.

Philipsen’s dramatic win saw him draw level with Lafay in the green jersey standings on a day that the race bade farewell to the Basque Country and entered French soil via four categorised climbs and a lumpy 193.5km coastal parcours.

‘Oh my life!’ – Philipsen edges intense sprint finish on Stage 3 in Bayonne

POWLESS EXTENDS POLKA DOT LEAD, PICHON’S PINCH-ME MOMENT

Powless danced clear of the peloton from the gun and was joined by Frenchman Laurent Pichon (Arkea-Samsic) in a two-man move that never held much more than a three-minute lead over the peloton.

The overnight leader in the king of the mountains standings, Powless proceeded to take maximum points over all four of the day’s categorised climbs in the resplendent Basque Country to strengthen his grip on the polka dot jersey he has held since the opening stage.

Powless ended the day on 18 points – a lead of 11 over his nearest rival, the two-time Tour winner and current white jersey, Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates). It was a welcome tonic for his EF Education-EasyPost team following their opening day loss of Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz to a fractured kneecap.

Stage 2 winner Lafay provided another moment of magic when he put in an unexpected attack ahead of the intermediate sprint, the Frenchman doing enough to add 15 points to his tally and all but guarantee a second day in green after his unlikely heroics from Sunday.

Denmark’s Pedersen won the sprint for fourth place in Deba before Lafay was swept up after his brief cameo off the front. Powless was next to falter, the polka dot jersey punching fists with fellow escapee Pichon in the streets of San Sebastian before easing up, his work for the day done.

Powless’ departure gave Pichon the honour of leading the race on his own as the Tour crossed the border into his native France at Hendaye, by which time the 36-year-old veteran’s lead had come down to around 1’30” as the teams of the sprinters rallied behind in anticipation of a first bunch sprint.

A first win in six years was not on the cards for plucky Pichon, who was eventually swept up with 37km remaining to set up a tense finale for sprinters and GC favourites alike inside the metaphorical washing machine of the rampaging peloton.

ALPECIN TAKE RISKS TO DELIVER PHILIPSEN TO LINE

Some lumpy roads proved to be a sting in the tail on the approach to Bayonne ahead of the first of a possible eight bunch sprint finales on the 110th edition of the Tour. A series of roundabouts on the outskirts of Bayonne made the finish highly technical, with the Soudal-QuickStep team of European champion Jakobsen very much wresting control of proceedings.

Soudal’s Kasper Asgreen momentarily broke clear going underneath the flamme rouge after losing touch with Jakobsen. The Dane was then clipped by Belgium’s Jonas Rickaert as the Alpecin train powered to the front in a flash point that could well have caused turmoil.

Luckily both Rickaert and Asgreen managed to stay off the deck as Van der Poel took over the relay and put in an almost catatonic pull to pulverise the opposition and propel team-mate Philipsen to the line.

Looking to bounce back after his disappointment in San Sebastian on Sunday, Van Aert looked to be the only rider capable of coming round Philipsen. But a bend in the road saw the gap between Philipsen and the barriers get significantly narrower and the frustrated Belgian champion took his foot off the gas with the finish line gaping.

Philipsen held off Bauhaus and Ewan, with Jakobsen edging Van Aert to take fourth – although the result was not confirmed for around 15 minutes.

‘There are no presents’ – Philipsen reacts to Stage 3 victory

“There was a bit of doubt but, yeah, they made it really exciting in the end,” a relieved Philipsen said after the jury confirmed his victory.

“It was tense but it’s the Tour de France – there are no presents and everyone goes all-in,” he added. “I think we can be really happy with our team performance today. We had a great lead-out with Jonas and then Mathieu, who did a fantastic job. It’s amazing – if he has the space to go, for sure he has the speed, and you know that no other lead-out will pass.

“It was a tricky final with the S-bend and I tried to take the shortest route to the finish – and I’m really happy to get first over the line. The first sprint is always the most nervous because all the teams are fighting for the win.”

Van Aert and the other sprinters will get an almost instant chance at retribution in Tuesday’s Stage 4 – a largely flat 181.8km ride from Dax to Nogaro with just the single categorised climb over 30km from the finish.

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