Leuze-au-Hainaut - Jasper Philipsen once again flexed his sprinting prowess to secure his second win of the season at stage 2 of Le Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux on Sunday. Ian Garrison’s fifth place finish provided the team with its second consecutive day with two riders finishing in the top ten.
Philipsen’s win is the third for the Hagens Berman Axeon Cycling Team following Philipsen’s stage 1 win yesterday and Mikkel Bjerg’s impressive victory in the team’s season opener at Rabobank Dorpenomloop Rucphen.
“It feels great to take my second win here today,” said Philipsen. “It would not have been possible without strong teamwork all day and Michael and Ian putting me into perfect position for the sprint.”
Sunday’s 167.3 km stage was the longest in the twenty-three year history of the event. The route from Tournai to Leuze-au-Hainaut concluded with two, 17 km loops near the city center.
Multiple breakaways throughout the stage kept the riders engaged. Philipsen said it was largely the work of teammate Joao Almeida along with Team Wiggins that helped reduce a latter, four-rider break that challenged the main group as they battled fierce crosswinds.
“Today it was most important to maintain good position in the GC,” said sport director Koos Moerenhout. “In defending the lead, we wanted to stay active as a team and not become too relaxed just because we had the yellow jersey.”
In staying aggressive as a means to defend Philipsen’s jersey and the team’s place in the GC, Will Barta helped chase down a breakaway that formed with 20 km left race.
“Will attacking in the six-man break was a perfect situation for us,” said Philipsen. “Once we came back together, Michael and Ian took over.”
Garrison said the team knew that if the peloton was together going into the finish they would try to lead Jasper out for the sprint. “Michael took a good pull until 1 km to go,” he said. “Then I took over and brought Jasper through the final sharp left turn, 1st and 2nd wheel. From there, I gave it all I had until he came around to snag the win!”
Maikel Zijlaard and Will Barta placed 37th and 38th respectively, while Joao Almeida finished 67th, and Michael Rice 79th.
Tomorrow’s final day includes two stages: a 9.6 km, uphill individual time trial in the morning, followed by a difficult, 91 km stage from Moulbaix to Saint-Sauveur. Heading into tomorrow, Philipsen holds a 13 second advantage on GC over Nils Eeekhoff (Team Development Sunweb) and 16 seconds over Gabriel Callaigh (Team Wiggins) who sits in third.
“We’re going all-in with the team for the GC tomorrow in the TT and do our best to hold it in the afternoon with the hard final stage,” said Philipsen.
The TT begins at 9:15am CEST (3:15am EST) and the final stage at 3:00pm CEST with an estimated finish of 5:15pm local time.
(Header photo of Jasper Philipsen by Davey Wilson.)