As Tadej Pogacar (16 wins this year), Primoz Roglic and Jonas Vingegaard (15) have put an end to their season and Remco Evenepoel (13) only has the Chrono des Nations left on his agenda, Belgium’s Jasper Philipsen has gained the title of King of Victories 2023 in professional road cycling as he took his third stage win in the 58th Presidential Cycling Tour of Türkiye in Marmaris, beating his compatriot Timothy Dupont and Italy’s Giovanni Lonardi in a bunch gallop.

“I like Marmaris a lot”, Philipsen said in the post-race press conference. “My first time here was in 2021. I remember watching the coastline and the islands before, it’s a beautiful place, I was impressed when I first came. It’s not only the last hill that makes the race hard before the sprint here. The whole stage today was made hard by the riders. Bora-Hansgrohe made it hard from the start and sent Nico Denz to the front so we had to sacrifice a lot of our riders to chase him down. I didn’t really understand their tactics. At the end, I only had Xandro Meurisse with me. He’s not really a lead out man. He’s got other qualities but not sprinting. However, he adapted to piloting me in the finale and try to put me in a good position for the sprint.” 

The first successful attacker of the day was Jay Vine (UAE Team Emirates) who was very disappointed at the start in Fethiye because of the stomach bug that put an end to his overall win ambitions while he was in the leading group on his way up to Babadag the day before. White jersey holder Robigzon Oyola (Team Medellin) accompanied him but the duo was brought back. However, Vine won the first cat. 3 KOM at km 39.1 ahead of another Colombian from Team Medellin, Aldemar Reyes who recently won the Clasico RCN back home, and Ben Zwiehoff, the wearer of the King of the Mountains jersey. 

Nico Denz (Bora-Hansgrohe) rode away solo after 50km. For a while, South Africa national champion Travis Stedman (Q36.5) chased him down but was reeled in. The maximum time gap was 3’25’’ at half way into stage 4, before sprinters’ teams Alpecin-Deceuninck, Astana and Green Project-Bardiani pulled the peloton, along with UAE Team Emirates later on. Reyes and Zwiehoff came first and second again in the second and last KOM with 10km remaining, thus 3km after Denz was brought back by the pack.

Lutsenko was third up that hill but explained that it was just a precautionary measure. “On the last climb, I wasn’t chasing points for the King of the Mountains jersey”, the Kazakh champion said. “I was just following the German guy [Ben Zwiehoff] to prevent any attack from him, that’s all. I wasn’t trying to go away but I just wanted to make sure that no one dangerous on GC did.” 

“For my first day in the lead of the Presidential Cycling Tour of Türkiye, it’s been a hard race”, Lutsenko continued. “There were a lot of attacks at the beginning from many people who wanted to break away. Bora-Hansgrohe clearly wanted to do something big today. They sent one guy [Nico Denz] at the front. After the difficult climb yesterday, my legs were a bit heavy today but I hope that they’ll get back to normal from tomorrow onwards. Cees Bol did a lot of work for me in the early part of the race. It’s very important for us to defend the Turquoise jersey so he always stayed close to me and brought me bottles. It’s very good that he managed to finish 4th in the sprint after all the efforts he made today.” 

One spot ahead of Bol was Lonardi. “This is for sure a good placing for me”, the EOLO-Kometa sprinter noted. “I’ve tried to win but I launched from a bit too far out and there were some pavés with 20 meters to go. However, it’s nice to make the podium, especially with Philipsen who is the world’s number 1. This encourages me to try and do well in the coming sprints as well. There’ll be one or two opportunities for sure. I’ll do my best to make another top 3.”

Second, Dupont echoed that it was no shame to lose to Philipsen these days. “It’s quite a good result. Looking at today’s stage, we went hard from the beginning and a group of twenty guys went to the front [in the first categorized hill]. I was just behind. I was lucky that Bardiani didn’t have anyone at the front so they brought it back. Among the 60 or 70 guys remaining at the end, I knew I had a chance to win. But with 50 metres to go, my chain dropped off. That was the moment Jasper started his sprint. I went directly on to shift gear so I could still finish second. I’m happy for Jasper that he’s the King of Victories 2023 now. Normally a sprinter would be sad to come second but I’m happy for him. He’s the world’s best sprinter on the road for the moment. He wins at Tour de France and everywhere he starts. Chapeau to him.”
“I like to win”, Philipsen confirmed. “Every win is nice. I’ve also been second a lot of times in the past so I know how important it is to win. Now it looks like it goes by itself but it’s not like that. It’s always really hard to win a race on every level. I’m very happy that I had a very good season. I reached most of my goals and I can look back to a successful season. 18 is a great number. Maybe 20 is at the back of my mind but let’s see what the next day brings. It’s very hard for the team to control every move like it was today. There are other hard stages to come.” 

“I need to come back every year to become the most successful sprinter in the TUR”, Philipsen concluded. “This year it fits very well in my program but maybe I’ll have to skip some years but I like to come to Türkiye, also because there are some nice bunch sprints. I’d like to win as much as possible in this race and see if I can beat these two legends [André Greipel and Mark Cavendish who have the record of stage wins with 11 each].”