Tirreno-Adriatico stage 2: Jasper Philipsen launches past Tim Merlier to sprint victory

Belgian powerhouses go up against each other in hotly-anticipated showdown, but Merlier accidentally provides a perfect slipstream for the Alpecin-Deceuninck star

Clock14:46, Tuesday 5th March 2024
Jasper Philipsen celebrates the first win of his season

© Getty Images

Jasper Philipsen celebrates the first win of his season

Alpecin-Deceuninck made the most of a chaotic finale to stage 2 of Tirreno-Adriatico, with sprinter Jasper Philipsen storming to victory ahead of Tim Merlier (Soudal Quick-Step).

The Soudal Quick-Step man had opened up his acceleration early, which allowed Philipsen to take advantage and emerge from a handy slipstream to pick up his first win of the season.

Defeated by Philipsen, Merlier initially sat up and accepted his fate, but he was soon forced out of the saddle once again to defend his second place.

Behind Philipsen and Merlier, Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty) landed third place on the day.

The stage had been rather uneventful prior to the sprint finish, with a four-man breakaway heading up the road consisting of riders from UCI ProTeams and the last survivor comfortably caught 36.5km from the finish.

"It was as always really hectic in the final and I'm happy we could find our way through the finish and I could do my sprint to win," said Philipsen after the finish.

"I felt [Merlier] coming in the last corner and I knew he had to go, so I tried to take his wheel. I had some shifting problems so I was happy I could find back the right gear and I launched my sprint at the right moment."

Quiet day in the saddle for peloton

Tuesday was to be the third-longest day in the saddle for the peloton at Tirreno-Adriatico, totalling 199.2km between Camaiore and Follonica, but it would be far from the toughest. After an opening stage that saw Juan Ayuso take the race lead and Visma-Lease a Bike steal the show with their new Giro helmets, stage 2 was to be a quieter affair for the most part.

Read more: Former Team Sky aerodynamicist on Giro's whacky TT helmet: 'It’s a great design and makes complete sense'

Unwelcome news awaited Q36.5 Pro Cycling before the flag drop, with Filippo Conca ruled out of the race with a fever. His departure was the only absence suffered by the peloton before a quartet of riders attacked just 6km into the day's proceedings.

Content with the arrangement of the breakaway, the peloton allowed Filippo Magli (VF Group-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè), Davide Bais (Polti Kometa), Jan Stöckli and Lorenzo Quartucci (both Corratec-Vini Fantini) to get up the road with a maximum advantage of a little over five minutes.

The time gap to the break slowly began to fall in the final 130km as Soudal Quick-Step began to pull on the front of the peloton, later joined by the ranks of Alpecin-Deceuninck. Given the similarities between their kits, it made for quite a humourous sight as they worked shoulder-to-shoulder as if they were a single 14-man team.

On the day's only climb, the Castellina Marittima (11.8km at 3%), Bais and Magli both attacked, with the former taking the maximum five KOM points at the summit. That move secured Bais the KOM jersey heading into Wednesday's stage, but it was Stockli who would last the longest at the head of the race.

The Swiss rider attacked through the intermediate sprint and ventured alone for a little over 35km before being caught by the peloton, who were keen to kick into gear as the stage entered its final 30km.

Sprint finish in Follonica

The finish of stage 2 consisted of a circuit around Follonica which the peloton would tackle one and a half times, with the first and penultimate pass through the finish line coming 18.2km from the end of the stage. At this point, the peloton looked nervous and the tension soon proved palpable.

A small crash befell Alexander Kamp (Tudor Pro Cycling) and Michael Vink (UAE Team Emirates), just moments before Mark Cavendish suffered a rear puncture. It was not a happy stop for the Manxman, whose Astana Qazaqstan Head of Performance Vasilis Anastopoulos could only look on helplessly as a team mechanic struggled to replace the wheel.

All in all, the rear change took 30 seconds from the moment that Cavendish pulled to the side of the road, handing the 38-year-old a significant task to regain contact with a raging peloton that was now led furiously by the riders of dsm-firmenich PostNL.

Read more: Mørkøv and Renshaw on Mark Cavendish: 'It's a winning formula for us'

Ploughing his way alone until Cees Bol dropped back with 10.5km to go, the gap to Cavendish ballooned to almost a minute and his hopes of challenging for the stage victory were over. All attention now turned to the likes of Lidl-Trek, Israel-Premier Tech and Visma-Lease a Bike, who were competing for position at the front of the pack.

Disaster struck for Israel-Premier Tech with 4.8km to ride, as an innocuous crash saw Chris Froome hit the ground in heavy fashion. The British climber looked worse for wear, whilst Robert Gesink (Visma-Lease a Bike) and Simone Velasco (Astana Qazaqstan) regathered their feet pretty quickly.

It was a very messy sprint in the end as a mishmash of colours swarmed the front of the peloton into the final right-hand bend with 350m to ride. But there was no question about the victory once Jasper Philipsen of Alpecin-Deceuninck showed his face. His win was dominant.

As Merlier launched his acceleration into the last bend, his Belgian rival Philipsen took the wheel and once Merlier's legs gave out in the final 300m, Philipsen was there to take the spoils.

"Just before the last corner, I go all in and tried from far, but I wasn't on the inside of the corner so I lost some speed and it was still 300m to go, so a bit too early," reflected Merlier to Eurosport after the finish.

For all the important information about the 2024 Tirreno-Adriatico, be sure to check out our dedicated race hub.

Race Results

1

be flag

PHILIPSEN Jasper

Alpecin-Deceuninck

4H 32' 07"

2

be flag

MERLIER Tim

Soudal Quick-Step

"

3

fr flag

ZINGLE Axel

Cofidis

"

4

be flag

CAPIOT Amaury

ARKEA-B&B HOTELS

"

5

nl flag

VAN UDEN Casper

Team dsm-firmenich PostNL

"

6

no flag

WÆRENSKJOLD Søren

Uno-X Mobility

"

7

it flag

LONARDI Giovanni

Team Polti Kometa

"

8

gb flag

VERNON Ethan

Israel-Premier Tech

"

9

it flag

MILAN Jonathan

Lidl-Trek

"

10

ch flag

LIENHARD Fabian

Groupama-FDJ

"

Provided by FirstCycling

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