Slagter leads Cannondale in Ardennes Classics

Brown, Skujins debut in Amstel Gold Race

Tom-Jelte Slagter will lead the Cannondale team through the Ardennes Classics, having shown strong form at this week's Brabantse Pijl, where he was ninth.

Slagter has three top-ten finishes in the trio of WorldTour events - although his best Amstel Gold Race finish was 21st in 2014, he was fifth in Flèche Wallonne and sixth in Liège - Bastogne - Liège in 2014. He was ninth in Flèche Wallonne last season.

“They are so long and super hard,” Slagter said of the Ardennes Classics. “For me personally the climbs are perfect and I like the type of roads we race on. I really enjoy racing in this area.”

Slagter is one of three Cannondale riders to have scored a victory so far this season - he won the opening stage of the Tour du Haut Var. He will be joined by Simon Clarke, winner of the GP Industria & Artigianato, and race debutantes Nathan Brown and Toms Skujins in the Amstel Gold Race, along with Kristijan Koren, Alberto Bettiol, Alex Howes and Ben King, who is coming back from a fractured ankle.

“The major objective of the year remains the Giro d'Italia, but in the Ardennes races, our team is more adaptable to the terrain than the cobbled classics,” said team CEO Jonathan Vaughters.

“We’ve got a number of different options from Tom-Jelte Slagter, who should be the de facto leader, to an up-and-comer like Mike Woods, in for Flèche and Liege.”

Skujins, who is in his first year at the WorldTour level, has had a solid three months to prepare for the long distances of the Ardennes Classics. He finished in the top 20 at the Tour du Provence and Criterium International, and completed his first Monument, the Tour of Flanders, in the main peloton.

“I'll be up against big boys. I've prepared the best I can and these races are the ones I aspire to do really well in and hopefully to podium in later in my career,” Skujins said. “These are the special one-days that everyone knows about and everyone watches. On the start line everyone is in the same situation. You get one chance, one shot at glory and you better make the best out of it — that's the beauty of one days. They are aggressive, unpredictable and much less scripted then stage racing. It's what I live for.”

Cannondale Pro Cycling for Amstel Gold Race: Alberto Bettiol, Nathan Brown, Simon Clarke, Alex Howes, Benjamin King, Kristijan Koren, Toms Skujins, and Tom-Jelte Slagter.

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