Dutchman faces first stage race of season at Paris-Nice
In 2013 Tom Jelte Slagter had an early start to the season with the Tour Down Under. The Dutchman won the race but chose to stay home this year to watch his son be born. Paris-Nice will be the first stage race of his season. "My current level is high so I think I can go for stage wins right away. If I succeed a good overall might be possible too," he told Wielerflits.
Though Slagter only had one race day this season [Trofeo Platja de Muro] he is confident. "The team decided not to let me start in Ruta del Sol or the Volta ao Algarve. Instead we did some solid training on Mallorca together. I feel good now but we'll have to wait until the next race to see that feeling confirmed."
The 24-year-old Slagter made his professional debut with Rabobank in 2011. Garmin-Sharp is his first foreign team but that poses no problems for the Dutch rider - he feels at home. "When the team supported me in my decision not to ride Tour Down Under because of the birth of my child, I was really grateful. I had three great years with Rabobank and Team Belkin but when Garmin-Sharp were enthusiastic to sign me it was an easy choice. It's one of the greatest teams."
At the American team Slagter finds four Dutch riders [Sebastian Langeveld, Dylan van Baarle, Thomas Dekker and Raymond Kreder]. "The language of the team is English but that also was the case at Belkin. The communication is easy and I feel right at home."
The first real test comes at Paris-Nice but his main goals of the season are the Ardennes Classics and the Giro d'Italia. "I lacked some experience in the Ardennes races in previous years but that should be alright now. The Flèche Wallonne and the Mur de Huy suit me best. I was 14th there last year so that opens up possibilities. The Flèche Brabanconne should also be a race for me though I never did it before. The Amstel Gold Race was a bit of a deception last year but that doesn't deter me. In the future I hope to ride for victory in all of those races."
Slagter will travel to Ireland after the Ardennes Classics to help teammate Dan Martin in the Giro. "I want to improve in the hilly Classics but also want to get better in climbing and time trialling. My winter was longer than normal so I had more time to focus on these elements. I hope it will show in the Classics and in the Giro. Then I will be really content," Slagter concluded.
Slagter's first day of racing at Paris-Nice ended with him finishing in the main bunch with the same time as stage winner Nacer Bouhanni while teammate Tyler Farrar placed 5th in the field sprint finale.
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