Philipsen pips Vingegaard in sprint finish at Saitama Criterium


Jasper Philipsen beat Tour de France champion Jonas Wingegaard in a sprint finish to win the Saitama Criterium in Japan on Sunday.

Wingegaard said he had “no chance” of beating Belgian sprint specialist Philipsen as the pair and Welshman Geraint Thomas approached the finish line after nearly 60 kilometers of street racing.

“I should have tried in the sprint, but in 10 out of 10 he beat me,” said the Dane.

“Of course I would like to win, but in the sprint I have no chance against Jasper.”

Wingegaard won the inaugural Singapore Criterium last week after a fast-paced final lap against the hot tropical sun.

Conditions were cooler as the Japanese race returned for the first time since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Wingegaard couldn’t give himself enough breathing room to avoid a sprint finish.

Philipsen has won two stages of the Tour de France this year and he said he was confident of success when he stepped on the line.

“The tactic for sure was that I had to use my sprint – that’s my forte,” said the 24-year-old.

“I didn’t have to sprint against the strongest sprinters, but they are just super strong riders and I’m just happy that I was able to finish the sprint.”

– Leaving Legends –

Tomas finished third behind Wingegaard, while Spaniard Alejandro Valverde finished fourth.

Valverde and Italian cycling icon Vincenzo Nibali have now officially retired and may have competed in the last competition of their careers.

The pair broke away from the pack with about five laps to go and pulled ahead significantly until they were caught with two laps remaining.

They exchanged fist blows before Wingegor took a seat in front.

“These are two really great riders, they have been here for so many years and have achieved very great results,” Wingegaard said of Nibali and Valverde.

“It is very nice to see that they were ahead together. I think this is their last race, so it’s a good way to finish.”

Wingegaard said after the race that he and his Jumbo-Visma team would sit down next month to decide their plans for next year.

The 25-year-old has said he would like to defend his title at the Tour de France, and he believes there will be “a little bit of everything” on next year’s route.

“That’s a lot of climbing, more than this year, not a lot of time trials,” he said.

— I would say that this is a pretty good route.

Philipsen said Wingegaard achieved something “special” by winning the Tour de France and called it an honor to race against him.

“If you can win the Tour in your career, that’s a crazy achievement that not many people can talk about,” he said.

“I have a lot of respect for Jonas, as well as other riders who are about to retire.

“When I was younger, 10 years ago, they were legends of the sport – and still are. It’s always a great honor for me to race with them.”