Team Blanco riders begins new era with Tour Down Under lead
Tom Jelte Slager has kicked off the new year and new era for Team Blanco, establishing a difficult to beat lead in the Tour Down Under with just one day of racing to go, thanks to finishing behind stage winner, Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) on Old Willunga Hill on Saturday.
Pulling on the race leader's ochre jersey, which he snatched from three-day leader Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), caps an incredible week for the young Dutchman who on Thursday, claimed his first professional win in Stirling earlier in the race.
"This whole week is amazing for the team," he said. "First with the win for me and today that I can hang the jersey on my shoulders. It's really amazing."
"I knew that I had to do it in the last, for sure in the last kilometre. The last 200m is more flat so I knew I had to catch bonus on the finish and I had to make a gap with the rest of the guys. That all went good."
Slagter started the day five seconds down on Thomas, but Team Blanco controlled the race to perfection, with an incredible team effort to ensure the 23-year-old had the best launch pad possible to the finish line.
"Every rider of our team did a great job," Slagter said. "They go for bottles; they ride in the wind all day for me. They pulled the last 60-70km they bring the front group back to the peloton and I'm really proud of the team."
With Dutch cycling firmly under the microscope in recent weeks because of a series of doping scandals and Rabobank's sudden decision to end their support to the team, Slagter had great perspective on his victory given the current climate.
"I think this is the best way to show to Dutch people and to the world how nice cycling can be and what we can do as Dutch riders," he said. "I only can say that I'm proud of the team. I hope we can find a new sponsor and we can show in the best way."
The Tour Down Under concludes on Sunday afternoon with a city criterium in Adelaide.