Should Jasper Philipsen leave Alpecin-Deceuninck?

The Belgian sprinter has proven his worth with the team, but could he get better opportunities elsewhere?

Before Paris-Roubaix, Alpecin-Deceuninck hosted a press conference with Mathieu van der Poel and Jasper Philipsen. As last year’s first and second place finishers in the Hell of the North, they were the riders the team chose to put forward to a bustling room filled with over 40 journalists from around the globe. As the floor opened for questions, almost every single one was addressed to the world champion, Van der Poel. For much of the time, Philipsen stayed quiet. At one point, he did offer up a view of the chicane being added at the start of the Arenberg, to which a question, directed at Van der Poel, almost immediately followed “and what does the best bike handler in the world think of it?” Then, the spotlight was back on the Dutchman again, Philipsen once again resigned to the MVDP’s understudy. His back-up dancer.

This scenario was a reflection of Philipsen’s place at Alpecin-Deceuninck. Of course, it’s understandable that Van der Poel, the world champion and Tour of Flanders winner, would demand plenty of attention, but let’s not forget that Philipsen was the victor of this year’s Milan-Sanremo, plus a six-time Tour de France stage winner. Van der Poel’s other-worldly brilliance, however, will always make him Alpecin’s number one. If Philipsen was to go to a different team, would he get more of his own chances in the spotlight?

Take Mads Pedersen at Lidl-Trek, for example. The Danish rider has been the American team’s undisputed leader throughout the entire Classics season. He’s used his teammates to his advantage on occasion, but there has never been any doubt that he was number one – Pedersen is Plan A, always. When posed the question about Jonathan Milan being another option for Lidl-Trek before the Tour of Flanders, Pedersen replied that he was the team’s leader whether people “liked it or not”. The Dane’s performances warrant this type of confidence, as Philipsen’s would if he had been on virtually any other team this spring.

Philipsen after winning Milan-Sanremo 2024 (Image: Zac Williams/SWpix)

It’s true that Philipsen has benefitted from being Van der Poel’s teammate plenty of times, with the world champion riding selflessly at Sanremo to help Philipsen to victory, chasing down the breakaways of Matej Mohorič and Tom Pidcock in the final throes of the race to bring things back together for a sprint. Whether Philipsen would have been able to secure his two second place Roubaix finishes in 2023 and 2024 without Van der Poel is also arguable – is he only able to be fresh enough at the finish to sprint for these podium places because he has saved energy by virtue of Van der Poel being up the road or in the break with him? No one can know the answer to this, but will Philipsen ever find out by remaining with Alpecin-Deceuninck?

As the Belgians contract negotiations continue, he should certainly consider whether his current team is the best place for him to shine. Form in cycling is so fleeting that a rider can be in contention for winning the biggest races in one season, to being off the back and off the pace in the other. While Philipsen is clearly in his prime – versatile enough to challenge for Roubaix wins, make it over the Poggio or win straight bunch kicks in the Grand Tours – he should capitalise on it, taking every opportunity he can for race wins. 

GCN has reported that before Paris-Roubaix, Philipsen was close to re-signing with Alpecin-Deceuninck, but his agent has since confirmed that there are still things to be ironed out before anything is finalised, with other teams still in the running. The decision that Philipsen makes next largely will depend on the direction he sees his career going in: if he wants to win sprints, he has the chance to do this at his current team, and Van der Poel has shown himself to be a stellar lead out man when the opportunity arises. When it comes to the Classics, however, Philipsen will always play second fiddle to the world champion, and are those two second places at Roubaix are making him wonder ‘what if’?

It’s a well known fact that Alpecin-Deceuninck is Mathieu van der Poel. He’ll be the core star of the team for the foreseeable future, having signed a contract extension until 2028. Is Philipsen happy to spend more seasons in the slipstream of the world champion, or should he look for his own chances? The 26-year-old is far more than a bunch sprinter, with the qualities and versatility to challenge for a variety of races on different terrain. Can he do this with Alpecin-Deceuninck? The decision is due to be confirmed within the next week. Is comfort the enemy of progress, or should Philipsen stick to what he knows?

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