Philipsen sprints ahead of Vingaard at Saitama Criterium

Jasper Philipsen edged Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard to the line in a sprint to win the Saitama Criterium in Japan on Sunday.

Vingegaard said he had “no chance” of beating Belgian sprint specialist Philipsen when the pair and Welshman Geraint Thomas closed in on the line after nearly 60 kilometers of street racing.

“I had to try in the sprint but 10 out of 10 he beat me,” said the Dane.

“Of course, I would have liked to win, but in a sprint, I don’t really have a chance against Jasper.”

Vingeard won the inaugural Singapore Criterium last week after a torrid final lap in the scorching tropical sun.

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

Philipsen has won two stages in this year’s Tour de France and he said he was confident of success when he got into position for the line.

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

“It wasn’t against the strongest sprinters that I had to sprint, but they’re just super strong runners and I’m just happy I was able to finish the sprint.”

– Retired legends –

Thomas took third place behind Vingaard, with Spaniard Alejandro Valverde finishing fourth.

Valverde and fellow Italian Vincenzo Nibali have already officially retired and were probably competing in the last event of their careers.

The pair broke away from the peloton with around five laps to go and built a considerable lead until they were caught with around two laps to go.

They shared a punch before Vingaard took over in front.

“They are two very good drivers, they have been here for so many years and had so many big results,” Vingaard said of Nibali and Valverde.

“It’s really nice to see they were together in front. I guess it’s their last race now, so it’s a nice way to end.”

Vingaard said after the race that he and his Jumbo-Visma team would meet next month to decide on his plans for next year.

The 25-year-old said he would like to defend his Tour de France title and he believes next year’s course has “a bit of everything”.

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

“I would say it’s a pretty good road.”

Philipsen said Vingaard achieved something “special” in winning the Tour de France and described racing against him as an honour.

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

“I have a lot of respect for Jonas and also for the other riders who are going to retire.

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

amk/mca

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