Jasper Philipsen won a second consecutive stage of the Tour de France on Tuesday as a series of high-speed falls at the Nogaro motorbike racetrack stole the headlines.
The Alpecin rider Philipsen finished at a speed over 67kph and took the overall lead in the sprint points battle after pipping Caleb Ewan and Phil Bauhaus.
The Belgian expressed shock at the falls.
“I’ve never experienced a finish like that before, those curves are tight and I’m so happy not to have fallen,” said the 25-year-old.
His teammate and lead out man Mathieu van der Poel also spoke out about the choice of placing the finale on a racetrack.
“A circuit is not safer than a road. I’m just happy I managed to stay upright and managed to find a gap for Jasper,” he said.
“Maybe because it was so boring and slow today the riders were more nervous. The corners were also much more technical than I had expected.
“Sadly it’s a dangerous sport and it’s not always possible to maintain safety.”
Fabio Jakobsen was one of the victims of the sprint and was alongside Philipsen when he hit the tarmac.
“It’s not my aim to make anyone fall,” Philipsen said. “My take is that he tried to get into a space that was too small.”
British veteran Mark Cavendish came fifth as he continued to face frustration in his quest for a 35th Tour de France win to break the all-time record he shares with Eddy Merckx.
The 38-year-old, who finished sixth in Monday’s sprint, said he picked the wrong wheel to follow.
In the shockingly accident-filled finish, the peloton sped around a motorbike racetrack where there was a string of crashes on the rounded chicanes.
Tour medics have confirmed two riders broke collarbones.
Jasper the master
Philipsen had attracted ridicule at the Tour last year for celebrating what he believed to be a stage win when in fact Wout Van Aert had already crossed the line on a solo escape.
A Netflix series about the 2022 Tour then nicknamed him ‘Jasper the disaster’.
But this is his fourth consecutive triumph on a Tour de France stage that culminated with a mass bunch sprint.
He is the first rider since Cavendish in 2008 to win successive sprint stages in the race.
Adam Yates retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey. He is six seconds ahead of his teammate Tadej Pogacar and seven ahead of his brother Simon Yates.
“Today went well, nobody wanted to break away and the sprinters were delighted,” Yates said of the slow pace set by the peloton on a flat stage.
Looking ahead to the Tour’s first big mountain stage on Wednesday, with around 30km of climbing at an average gradient of over 7 percent, Yates predicted more action.
“It’s a big opportunity for the breakaway, there will be some serious competition to get in there and get away. It’ll be interesting.”
First up on Wednesday is the hors category 15km ascent of the Col de Soudet at 7.2 percent average gradient. The next hill is the Col d’Ichere with 4km at 7 percent before an 8km slog up the Col de Marie Blanc at 8.6 percent gradient.
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