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He had to brake once and then again as he sprinted his way through the final 200 metres, but with powerful acceleration Jasper Philipsen claimed his first Tour de France stage victory by a hot day in Carcassonne.
The Alpecin-Deceuninck rider came from behind as Trek-Segafredo’s Mads Pedersen opened the sprint, then threw himself on the inside of the final corner to overtake and edge out green jersey holder Wout van Aert (Jumbo -Visma) as Pedersen faded. third.
Having made the top three in the Tour de France sprints eight times but never managing to claim a victory until today, Philipsen was understandably emotional during the post-race interview.
“It makes him super amazing,” he said of his previous failures. “I know what it’s like to lose in the Tour de France. I’ve been close many times. That it worked out today is amazing. I can’t believe it.
“I felt Wout was getting closer, but I also knew the finish line from last year. We met a little before the last corner and I knew it wasn’t long after the last corner. I knew that I had to catch up a bit. It was good that I was able to pass Mads.
Alpecin-Deceuninck was unlucky in 2021 when Mathieu van der Poel won a stage and led the race in week one. Van der Poel struggled after a difficult Giro d’Italia and retired on stage 11.
“It’s been a massive search for this win,” Philipsen said. “We worked very hard for this. I’m super proud that we can finally finish it after a difficult tour. We had to wait until stage 15 with the team, but everyone still believed that it was possible. I’m super happy .
“I knew I had good legs but we just had to wait for the right moment and the right opportunity and today was the day.”
It was an imperfect day for Jumbo-Visma, however, as race leader Jonas Vingaard lost Primož Roglič before the start and then another strong climber Steven Kruijswijk crashed out mid-stage days before the race was due to start. heads for the Pyrenees.
Vingaard also crashed but raced back to maintain his 2:22 lead over Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), while Geraint Thomas remains third at 2:43.
The Dane said his injuries were limited to a rash.
“Today was not the best day for us,” Vingaard said. “Steven dropped out of the race and Teisj and I crashed so it’s not the best day. I’m fine and hope Tiesj is fine too. It’s a bad day but it can happen.”
How it went
With temperatures already at 32°C starting in Rodez, the peloton knew they would face another hot day in the saddle for the 202.5km trek south to Carcassonne via fields of sunflowers and wheat from the Occitanie region of southwestern France.
Runners wore ice vests, ice packs on their necks and made sure to hydrate before and during the race. Refueling was authorized from the start and the time was extended but no one asked to shorten the stage. It’s the Tour and the show must go on.
Indeed, the attacks came as soon as the flag fell and once again Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) was there as the team decided to withdraw Primož Roglič from the race due to his injuries. Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) and Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech) were the other non-runners, both testing positive for COVID-19 before Stage 15.
Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Mikkel Honoré (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) joined Van Aert and the peloton preferring to let them go, the breakaway quickly formed. They opened up a 1:30 lead before BikeExchange-Jayco and Alpecin-Deceuninck moved to the front to control them.
When the Jumbo-Visma car managed to pass the peloton and join Van Aert after 30 km, they ordered their man to calm down and back up; There was no tactical need for him to go up front in such a small group. Van Aert didn’t seem too happy but followed orders, leaving Honoré and Politt to ride in pairs.
Despite temperatures reaching 37°C on the open roads, the two bravely continued but the peloton held them in check around 2:00 am. Honoré had clearly been given the freedom to attack. Fabio Jakobsen’s leader Michael Morkøv was dropped early in the stage and faced a personal battle for survival. He would finish the stage but miss the time limit.
The central 100 km of the stage was a game of cat and mouse between Honoré and Politt and the peloton. The two never calmed down, but neither did the peloton, with Chris Juul-Jensen setting a lot of pace.
Photographers had time to take their traditional sunflower shots of the peloton as riders grabbed cans and repeatedly made trips back to their team cars for more ice.
As France burned in the heat, protesters again tried to disrupt the Tour de France to make their case. However, the race police quickly dragged them off the road and Honoré and Politt also rolled, the peloton.
The relaxed atmosphere ended with 64 km to go. The protests seemed to have raised the tension and Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) fell hard in a sudden crash on a straight stretch of road.
Van Aert stopped to help but the Dutch rider was injured. The race went ahead without him and Kruijswijk was loaded into an ambulance, with the crowd cheering. His team later said he suffered a dislocated shoulder.
Just seven kilometers later, Jumbo-Visma suffered another accident, this time Vingaard fell with Tiesj Benoot. The race leader landed on his shoulder and left side but was not seriously injured and got up to chase. Vingeard suffered a rash, but it could have been much worse.
There was a moment of panic at Jumbo-Visma as Vingaard changed bikes but he quickly caught up with several teammates and got back into the peloton ahead of the intermediate sprint and the climb of the Côte des Cammazes.
The race being definitively launched, the other runners were waiting for Vingaard. Honoré led Politt through the intermediate sprint, with Van Aert still alert and ahead to finish third and score more points for his green jersey.
The two leaders were caught on the climb of the Côte des Cammazes, with Trek-Segafredo on a fast pace which immediately hurt the sprinters.
Jonas Rutsch (EF Education-EasyPost) tried to inspire an attack but Trek-Segafredo put the pressure on the climb, bringing Rusch back and stretching the peloton to outrun some sprint rivals. Their efforts succeeded in dislodging Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal), Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExhchange-Jayco) and Alexander Kristoff (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), among others.
As they approached the top of the Category 3 climb, Alexis Gougeard (B&B Hotels-KTM) and Benjamin Thomas (Cofidis) passed by the top of the Trek-Segafredo train and danced to take the mountain points and attempt to forge a winning gap.
However, in the long gradual descent over the next 20 km, the Groenewegen group gradually made their way back to the peloton.
The two leaders pushed on as the reduced peloton waited for the last to regain the 20-second lead. With 5km to go, the duo were in sight on a straight stretch of road and had a gap reduced to 10 seconds. Thomas took off in a desperate attempt to outsmart the sprinters.
But all of Thomas’ efforts were in vain when the peloton passed him under the red kite meaning there was 1 km to go.
Trek-Segafredo threw a powerful lead for Pedersen, but he couldn’t hold off Van Aert’s push, while Philipsen found another gear to pass them both.
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