The Schelderprijs is a mid-week Classic suited to the sprinters and they again shared the spoils at the end of the 205km race in Belgium overnight. Jasper Philipsen took the win ahead of Sam Welsford and Mark Cavendish.

By Rob Arnold (Photos: Stefano Sirotti)


There’s a long list of top-line sprinters who have tasted victory in the Schelderprijs and several of them have won this Belgian race multiple times. The latest to achieve this is Jasper Philipsen, the winner in 2021, who again reached the line ahead of a quality field of sprint rivals.

Australian fans will be taking notice of the runner-up in Wednesday’s race, Sam Welsford of Team DSM. He might have been boxed in a little, between the winner and the barriers, in the final rush to the line in Schoten, but he was still able to muscle his way to second place.

Adding spice to the result – and also earning the Schelderprijs some extra attention in 2023 – is the fact that Mark Cavendish was up there challenging for his first win in the Astana colours. Third place for the Manxman, the winner of this race on three previous occasions (2007, 2008 and 2011).

With the considerable advantage of having Mathieu van der Poel as a team-mate, Philipsen put himself in a good position at the crucial moment and timed his effort to perfection, beginning his sprint inside the final 300m and holding off the late charge by both Welsford and Cav.

It is the fourth win for the Belgian in 2023, and confirmation of his skill as a sprinter and the depth of strength in the Alpecin-Deceuninck team.

Philipsen began his sprint with a surge relatively close to the barriers on the left-hand side of the road and although there was a slight opening, and Welsford was picking up speed, the Australian ran out of road and finished a close second.

“I’m happy with my consistency,” Welsford told RIDE Media a few hours after the podium ceremony, “but I got a bit stuck on the barriers.”

His second place in Schelderprijs is the seventh podium for Welsford in his second season with DSM. He collected two successive victories in the final stages of the Vuelta a San Juan Internacional in Argentina this January, his first race of 2023. Then, on his return to Belgium after a stint of competition in the UAE, the 27-year-old picked up his third win of the year in the GP Criquielion in early March.

Welsford turned pro on the road relatively late in his career after a long focus on track racing with the national team. He’s got the power, speed, and ability to position himself in a good place – even without much of a lead-out train from DSM – and he continues to build his reputation.

Holding off the resurgent Cavendish is certainly a good way for Welsford to make a name for himself, even if the Astana rider is in the twilight of his career… and, in his 26th race day with the new team, showing promising form.

The Schelderprijs holds special memories for Cavendish: this Classic was his first major success when he made the jump to the elite ranks as a 21-year-old with the T-Mobile team back in 2007. He has won a lot since then and continues to hone his form ahead of an anticipated return to the Tour de France this July.

Cavendish’s third place in Belgium overnight matches his best result with Astana (from stage one of the UAE Tour in February). It also marks his seventh podium appearance in the Schelderprijs: three wins, twice runner-up (2013 and 2016, both times beaten by Marcel Kittel), as well as third in 2021 and this year.

Next stop on the pro circuit: Paris-Roubaix… although none of the top three from Schelderprijs are expected to start this cobbled Classic on Sunday.

Welsford had hoped to make the cut for Roubaix, but Team DSM will again be focussing its efforts on John Degenkolb, the winner of the ‘Queen of the Classics’ in 2015. The Aussie sprinter will have plenty of other opportunities in the weeks and months ahead and he’ll have to wait at least another year before making his debut in Paris-Roubaix.

– By Rob Arnold