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A look at the school, the races and the future of this unique 'sport'
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Tom Slagter on the race winner's ocre jersey
Dutch rider looking for back-to-back wins
Tom Jelte Slagter has targeted a defence of his Tour Down Under crown in 2014. The 24-year-old won the race this year after claiming stage 3 to Stirling and then finishing second on the crucial stage on Old Willunga Hill.
With a move from Belkin to Garmin-Sharp finalised, Slagter has begun his training for the new year with his first get-together with his team scheduled for next month.
"The training is more or less the same as in previous years. I’ve been out on the mountain bike and I’ve even done some speed skating on the ice. In December I’ll hit the gym for some power training and them start ramping things up on the road," Slagter told Cyclingnews.
"We have a training camp that month too and that’s when I’ll start working in the hills. Before you know it, it will January and I’ll be racing again."
The Tour Down Under success this year was breakthrough race for Slagter. Until that moment the Dutchman was regarded a promising young rider still on the cusp of making his mark. As an under-23 rider he had won his national road race and finished fourth in the Tour de l'Avenir in 2010. His first two seasons with Rabobank – later morphing into Blanco and finally Belkin - saw moments of promise but no wins.
The Tour Down Under win changed that and Slagter found himself with a number of teams courting his signature.
"For sure I’ll go there again and I want to win," he said of next year’s Tour Down Under.
"Last year I went there with the ambition of a top ten and I won but the race suits me really well. When I go there it will be a big goal."
He was used sparingly in the second half of this season, previously stating that Belkin attempted to blackmail him into signing a contract extension by only offering him a Tour de France place if he stayed. He rejected both their pressure and their offer and turned to Garmin.
"I also have the Giro in my schedule at the moment but we’ll have to see," Slagter said.
"Garmin gave me a really good feeling, especially Vaughters who really made an effort to bring me to the team. That was good for my head, to know that a team really likes you. So when the race suits me I think the team will work for me but in other races I can be the worker, that’s no problem for me at all."
The Tour Down Under with its lack of serious mountain tests and zero kilometres against the clock suit Slagter’s aggressive style of racing. In 2014 he will target both the shorter stage races and the Ardennes Classics.
"At this moment the shorter stage races suit me better. If there’s a long time trial I’m going to lose time and it’s the same when the climbs start getting longer than 10 kilometres. At that point the real GC guys take time on me and I lose too much. The shorter stage races, like the Tour Down Under are perfect for me. Last year, you could see though that when I was riding in the Tour de l'Ain I was leading with one stage to go. We had to go up the Colombier and I lost my jersey."
"So I know that's what I need to improve and focus on. It's the next step. But that's one of the challenges for me and the team."