De Kort's springboard to Classics redemption starts with Tour Down Under

Koen de Kort (Argos-Shimano) will begin his WorldTour season at the Santos Tour Down Under on Sunday but says that it's some of his teammates who will reap the most benefits of the Dutch-based team's upgraded UCI status.

The 30-year-old rode mostly top-tier events in 2012 while the team was ProContinental.

"It makes it a little bit easier working towards the big races," de Kort told Cyclingnews. "For me personally in terms of a program it's probably not going to change too much. I pretty much only did WorldTour races last year anyway. But for a couple of other riders on the team it will be a big difference and give the guys some more chances."

De Kort kicked off the New Year by riding the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic and like most, used the three-race criterium series dubbed "the world's fastest" to build his intensity following solid pre-season training blocks before heading to Adelaide this week to meet up with his team. The Argos-Shimano roster for the Tour Down Under is a strong one, headed by Marcel Kittel and Stirling stage winner from 2012, new signing Will Clarke. For de Kort, it will mark the first opportunity for the season to work as part of Kittel's lead-out train; something that he feels is where he can add value to the team, especially with John Degenkolb throughout the season.

"I think last year from the Vuelta onwards I really developed as a lead out man and I would like to take that to the next level," explained de Kort. "Working closely with John and Marcel possibly as well. But definitely with John and hopefully get some more big wins for him."

Like quite a few of the peloton in Adelaide next week, the Tour Down Under will play an important role as a stepping stone towards the Classics. In 2012, De Kort earned the best result of his career with a third place at Dwaars Door Vlaanderen before sinking to despair two days later, crashing at high speed out of the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen - Harelbeke. Left 'mummified', wrapped in bandages and suffering a broken rib, de Kort is keen to banish such bad memories this time around.

"It was like going from a really high, high to a really low, low within two days," he told Cyclingnews. "I finally proved to myself and anyone in cycling that I can get a podium spot in a classic. It wasn't one of the biggest classics but for me it really counted and I think for a lot of people it really opened their eyes."

De Kort is hopeful that working in combination with Degenkolb, Argos-Shimano can make quite the impression this spring.

"With John Degenkolb we've got a kind of rider that can do really well in these kinds of races as well," he said. "We can always help each other out in the final and see how we go."

Following his incident at E3, de Kort rode both the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España but whether he is set for a repeat in Spain in 2013 depends on the first half of the season.

"Maybe if I build toward the Classics and the Tour de France I'll be pretty much stuffed and I wouldn't want to do the Vuelta anymore - that's looking a bit too far into the future."


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