Watch: Jasper Philipsen celebrates Tour de France stage four win – despite not finishing first

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Jasper Philipsen celebrates Tour de France stage four win - despite not finishing first - GETTY IMAGES
Jasper Philipsen celebrates Tour de France stage four win - despite not finishing first - GETTY IMAGES

As he powered across the finish line in Calais, at the head of an assortment of the world’s top sprinters, Belgian Jasper Philipsen roared in celebration, beating his chest and punching the air in delight. And why not? The 24-year-old Alpecin-Deceuninck rider believed he had just notched by far the biggest victory of his career to date; in stage four of the Tour de France. This was something to tell the grandkids about. The first Tour stage win of his career.

Except it was not. What Philipsen did not realise was that he had been sprinting for second spot. The actual stage winner, Jumbo-Visma’s Wout van Aert, had already crossed the line some eight seconds earlier, having escaped over the top of the final climb, 10km from the end, and ridden solo to the finish.

In a cruel – and very public – moment of realisation, Philipsen’s celebrations turned to anguish.

Understandably, the youngster was still a little raw when he spoke to reporters a few minutes later, describing the whole episode as “a bit s---”.

“On the climb I never saw him riding in front,” Philipsen said. “It’s a disappointment for sure. For four or five seconds I honestly thought I won. It will make funny images in the end. But I didn’t want this so it’s a bit s--- also.”

Philipsen, who explained that it was too noisy to hear anything over his radio as he prepared for his sprint, will no doubt be embarrassed. But his error is not uncommon in cycling.

There was a famous case at the Giro d’Italia in 2017 when Luka Pibernik of Slovenia bolted off the front of the peloton to foil the sprinters and 'win' stage five only to discover there was still one 6km lap of the finish circuit to go. He ended up finishing 148th.

Just last month, Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) was in Philipsen’s shoes after celebrating what he thought was a stage victory at the Tour de Suisse. His team-mate had to inform him that unfortunately Andreas Leknessund of DSM had already taken the stage.

In perhaps the most famous instance of all, at last summer's Tokyo Olympics, Dutch great Annemiek van Vleuten thought she had won gold in the women’s road race, only to discover after celebrating on Mt Fuji Speedway that she had in fact finished second to little-known Austrian Anna Kiesenhofer, an amateur rider and postdoctoral mathematician who had outsmarted the field and finished over a minute in front of everyone.

Van Aert seals sensational solo victory on stage four

Belgian Wout van Aert underlined his status as a generational talent with a sensational solo victory on stage four of the Tour de France on Tuesday.

After three fairly pedestrian stages in Denmark, Van Aert’s win on the north coast of France was just what the race needed, supplying a jolt of electricity as the peloton gears up to tackle the fearsome cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix on Wednesday.

It also served as a reminder of just what a talent he is. Van Aert's win was not simply extraordinary for the manner in which it was achieved – the Jumbo-Visma rider broke clear on the final climb of the day, with 10km remaining, before holding off the entire peloton to win by eight seconds – it was extraordinary for what it meant. His victory, after finishing runner-up in the opening day time trial and then the two sprint stages in Denmark, means he has now finished first-first-second-second-second-first in his last six Tour stages dating back to last summer.

That incredible consistency has been across a variety of stage profiles including time trials, bunch sprints and rolling stages such as Tuesday's.

Belgium's Wout Van Aert, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the fourth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 171.5 kilometers (106.6 miles) with start in Dunkerque and finish in Calais, France, Tuesday, July 5, - AP
Belgium's Wout Van Aert, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the fourth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 171.5 kilometers (106.6 miles) with start in Dunkerque and finish in Calais, France, Tuesday, July 5, - AP

Given Van Aert also won last year’s Queen stage – the double ascent of Mont Ventoux – the 27-year-old’s versatility is such that many are wondering whether he could one day target the yellow jersey for real. Not since his countryman Eddy Merckx, or Frenchman Bernard Hinault, has the race known a rider so powerful across all formats.

If he is let off the leash, Van Aert will undoubtedly be a threat on the pavé on Wednesday as well. More likely he will be asked by his Jumbo-Visma team to look after their general classification hopefuls Primoz Roglic and Jonas Vingegaard.

“It will be an important stage to stay out of trouble for Jonas and Primoz,” Van Aert admitted. “But we also see it as an opportunity to try something in the general classification. If we can help Jonas and Primoz to try something that would be really good.”

Van Aert celebrated his win on Tuesday by flapping his arms as he crossed the line. He later said he had wanted to show that the yellow jersey had “given him wings”.

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