TOUR DE FRANCE 2023 | STAGE 4 | DAX > NOGARO
From the start in Dax —home town of the legendary sprinter André Darrigade, who won 22 Tour de France stages— to the finish on the Circuit Paul-Armagnac race track in Nogaro, everything pointed to a sprinter taking the spoils in stage 4, sandwiched between three gruelling stages in the Basque Country and the race’s first foray into the Pyrenees. The super-speedsters did not let this golden opportunity go to waste. Barrelling down the flat roads of the Landes and Gers departments, the sprinters’ teams kept a tight rein on a stage in which the breakaway took its sweet time to form.
The Norman duo of Benoît Cosnefroy and Anthony Delaplace took off with 86 kilometres to go and added some excitement to the race before getting reeled in about half an hour before the finish. The European champion, Fabio Jakobsen, was among those who hit the tarmac in the crash-marred finale, leaving Jasper Philipsen to surge to his fourth Tour de France bunch sprint win on a trot, one day after raising his arms in triumph in Bayonne and a year after coming out on top in Carcassonne and on the Champs-Élysées. It was a double whammy for the Belgian rider, who cemented his status as the king of sprints and wrested the green jersey from Victor Lafay, while Adam Yates stayed in yellow.
The 174-strong peloton mustered under a cloudy sky in Place de la Fontaine-Chaude ahead of stage 4 on Tuesday. The start in Dax was an opportunity to pay tribute to André Darrigade, a 22-time Tour de France stage winner. Known as the “Landes Greyhound”, the 94-year-old former sprinter took the chance to pose with Victor Lafay, clad in the same green jersey that the former world champion claimed twice in his career (1959 and 1961). The official start came at 1:22 pm, following a 4.8 km neutralised section. The breakaway specialists, perhaps intimidated by the long odds, were conspicuous by their absence at the beginning.
PHILIPSEN FINDS HIS BEARINGS
The pack was eager to catch a breather following three leg-breaking stages and with the Pyrenees just 24 hours away. There were no real attacks in the first 95 kilometres, covered at a rather sluggish average speed of 37 km/h. The first move came 86 kilometres before the line, shortly after Jasper Philipsen clinched the intermediate sprint at Notre-Dame-des-Cyclistes. Benoît Cosnefroy (AG2R Citroën) fired the opening salvo and Anthony Delaplace (Arkéa–Samsic) latched onto his wheel.
TWO FRENDH RIDERS SPICE UP THE FINALE
The Norman duo soon increased their advantage to one minute, but the sprinters’ teams put their foot down straight away. 25 kilometres before the line, the pack swallowed the two Frenchmen right after the only categorised climb of the day, the category 4 Côte de Dému, where Delaplace had been first over the top. The juggernaut continued to pick up steam and no-one even attempted to frustrate the inevitable bunch sprint as the race blasted onto the Circuit Paul-Armagnac race track.
BENOÎT COSNEFROY: “BEING AT THE FRONT OF THE RACE WITH ANTHO PACKED QUITE AN EMOTIONAL PUNCH”
“I’m over the moon [with the combativity award]. It was a bit of a long day. I agreed with Antho [Anthony Delaplace] to spend a few kilometres at the front, Valentin Madouas was also in on it. Then Antho and I took off together. We get along very well. He lives 10 kilometres from my parents’ place and we often ride together in Normandy. He always inspired me when I was young [Cosnefroy is six years younger]. Being at the front of the race with Antho packed quite an emotional punch. We hoped the peloton would give us two more minutes. We talked about Normandy and the beautiful Norman flags waving on the roadsides.”
PHILIPSEN KEEPS A RESURGENT EWAN AT BAY
Alexis Renard led Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) onto the home straight with 750 metres to go, but the French sprinter had to settle for fourth place, behind the unstoppable Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin–Deceuninck) and others. Once again, Mathieu van der Poel set up the perfect lead-out for the Belgian, but this time round, Philipsen had to dig deep to stay clear of Caleb Ewan (Lotto Dstny), who built on his third place yesterday to finish second today. Stage 4 was Philipsen’s second win in as many days, after his triumph in Bayonne, but also his fourth consecutive success in bunch sprints in the Tour de France, coming a year after he claimed victory in Carcassonne and on the Champs-Élysées.
JASPER PHILIPSEN: “WE FELT LIKE RACE CARS”
“Caleb [Ewan] was right next to me. I wasn’t too confident. He almost caught up with me at the end, it was really nerve-wracking. I’m extremely proud to have won twice in a row. The finish was super fast, we felt like race cars. There were wide turns that sometimes tightened, it was extremely fast, but we had some grip with the tyres. I’m really glad I didn’t hit the deck. I saw there were a lot of falls. I hope the guys are okay. This morning, we had a briefing and looked at the course in detail. Our goal was to do our best. The sprint stages are our top priority, so we dot all the Is and cross all the Ts. You also need some luck, but when you have someone like Mathieu with you, even in a difficult situation where everything is on a razor edge, he manages to bring us back to the front. My goal in this Tour was to win a stage. We already ticked that box yesterday. Now, we want more. And we want to go for the points. [The green jersey] will be a target in this Tour.”
ADAM YATES: “TOMORROW IS GOING TO BE A BIT DIFFICULT FOR ME”
“Today was quite straightforward until the finale. Nobody wanted to go in the breakaway. The sprinters were happy to stay in the bunch, but the end was tricky, with all those crashes. We’ll see how it plays out tomorrow. I think it’s the very first chance for a breakaway, so all hell will break loose at the start. Then, there are the bonuses on the last climb, so it’s going to be a bit difficult for me [to keep the yellow jersey]. But we’re lucky to have Tadej on our team! We’ll see tomorrow.