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Philipsen rues missed opportunity at cobbled races

Philipsen denied a second shot at a race that spurred his love of cycling as a child.

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Jasper Philipsen (UAE-Emirates) was hoping his second run at the Tour of Flanders this week would help pave the way for future success.

With Flanders off the calendar, the budding classics star will have to wait for another opportunity to hone his northern classics skillset.

“It was one of the main goals to be in good condition during this period of racing. Now we have to rethink everything,” Philipsen told VeloNews. “For me it is still about getting experience in this race and getting better in the final of Flanders.”

Philipsen, who turned 22 last month, is among a new generation of Belgian riders looking to take over on the northern classics. In his rookie WorldTour season in 2019, the fast finisher notched twenty top-5’s, with a stage win at the Santos Tour Down Under.

Last year, after an impressive showing in his opening races, he got the nod to race both Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Though he didn’t finish either, he was third at Nokere Koerse and ninth at Scheldeprijs, enough to confirm his promise on the cobbles.

This year, Philipsen was expecting to take the next step. Instead, just like everyone else, he’s on the sidelines wondering what’s next.

“I am not sure if they can reschedule all the important races,” he said. “Let’s see what the UCI decides. For me, it doesn’t matter so much when. If they pick a date in advance, then we can prepare and know when we have to be ready for this day.”

Racing last year at Flanders was completing the circle. Philipsen said it was the magic of the Ronde that got him hooked on cycling. After racing with Hagens Berman Axeon in 2018, he made the jump to the WorldTour last year.

“Flanders means a lot. It’s one of the races that got me interested in cycling,” he said. “I remember watching it when I was younger. I was on the Muur with my family to watch the race the year that Nick Nuyens won. It was such a cool atmosphere with all the spectators that I thought it was something I’d like to do. Now it’s nice that I am on the side of the pro riders. I just hope we can do this race as soon as possible.”

Philipsen, who raced this year at the Santos Tour Down Under and at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, said he wasn’t surprised the northern classics were canceled. Now he’s hoping like everyone else 2020 won’t be a complete wash.

“It’s a bit strange that the race will not be held,” he said. “I would have been more surprised if it had gone on without any spectators. They didn’t have any other choice but to cancel the race.”

While Flanders Classics has organized a virtual Tour of Flanders race for the pros this weekend, Philipsen has decided to save his legs for the real edition, whenever that may be.