Slagter ready to challenge Rodriguez in uphill finishes

Young Dutchman a favorite for Santos Tour Down Under overall win

Tom-Jelte Slagter of Blanco Pro Cycling got the first victory of his pro career ahead of Matt Goss and world champion Philippe Gilbert in the uphill finish of Stirling in the third stage of the Santos Tour Down Under. “Everybody at the Hilton Hotel told me that it looks good on the picture,” said a delighted Slagter at the start of stage 4 as he realized the impact of his superb rush on the cycling world.

“Wat a mooie aankomst [what a nice finish]!” he commented after winning in Stirling. “I couldn’t expect anything better for my first pro win. David Tanner put the hammer down with one kilometer to go, that was pretty far but he delivered me in a really good position to open my sprint with 350 metres to go.”

That effort put him in second position overall five seconds down on Geraint Thomas (Sky), with a true chance of winning the Tour Down Under atop Willunga Hill. “I’m in a good position on GC,” he said. “It would have been cool to have the ochre jersey, but at least I’m now confident to being one of the three best riders in this race.”

“The first goal of my season was to be good here,” the 23-year-old from Groningen told Cyclingnews. “I’ve prepared well to perform from the start with the new colours of the Blanco team. At the difference of my first two pro seasons, I won’t be doing the Giro d’Italia this year. My next goal will be to peak the form again for the Amstel Gold Race, the Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. These three classics are in my mind.”

They all were won two years ago by the man Slagter beat out on Thursday. “I’m aware that Gilbert might not be at the top of his form right now,” said the climber nicknamed “T-J” by his teammates. “But it still feels good to beat the wearer of the rainbow jersey. It gives me confidence to challenge the riders of this caliber at the Ardennes classics. I’m not saying that I’m one of the best riders in the world but I’m getting closer and closer.”

Introduced by Cyclingnews as “the new Purito in the making” during the 2012 Giro d’Italia after he claimed seventh place behind Joaquim Rodriguez at the uphill finish of Assisi, Slagter had some nice words in South Australia for his idol who has an uncertain race program after Katusha’s exclusion from the WorldTour. “I like Purito and I respect him a lot”, said the Dutchman. “We spoke a few times and he’s been very friendly with me. I wish him to be back at the same level he had last year when he won the Fleche Wallonne.”


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