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Sprinter Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) clinched his fists and released a scream of joy as he crossed the finish line of the Tour de France’s fourth stage from Dunkerque to Calais in the north of France.
Unfortunately that was eight seconds after Wout van Aert captured the stage victory. Clearly, Philipsen didn’t know his compatriot had blasted away from the pack on the short climb at 10km from the finish. The Belgian team aimed to set-up Philipsen for the sprint, saving the team’s big star Mathieu van der Poel for Tuesday’s stage over the cobbles that should suit him better.
“I thought we sprinted for the win but then I saw him right in front of me when I crossed the finish line. What a shame. I made a fool of myself. If you raise your hand and you didn’t win. For five seconds, maybe less, I thought that I had won. That was nice. Then I saw him and I also heard them laughing behind me. Now I can also laugh with it. It’s the way it is. I have to live with it. It’s a pity,” Philipsen told the awaiting media after rolling on towards the team bus behind the finish line in Calais.
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One might wonder how it is possible Philipsen didn’t know Van Aert was riding in front of the peloton. He blames the poor radio connection and the sheer impossibility of distancing the peloton on the 1km long Côte du cap Blanc-Nez climb.
“We were always aiming for the sprint and that’s what I had on my mind today. I didn’t expect someone else to ride away solo. It’s an impressive effort from him to ride away like that. On such a small climb he had such a big gap straight away. I didn’t see it. We were battling for position at the foot of the climb but still sat too far back,” he said.
“We rode a fierce pace to the top and didn’t see anything from his attack. I thought we were racing for the victory. My radio wasn’t working well either and nobody told me. It’s embarrassing to cross the line the way I did. It does indicate how impressive Wout’s effort was, because it seemed impossible to me to ride away from the peloton on such a short climb.”