Five years on, the media clamour surrounding Slagter isn’t what it once was. As he prepares for stage 1 of the 2018 edition of the race, he goes about his routine, applying sun-cream and testing his brakes, before taking up a position on the start line underneath a blistering sun. The only reminder of his 2013 triumph comes when a former pro and now race announcer David McKenzie puts his arm around Slagter’s shoulder and reminds the crowd that Australians haven’t always had their own way at this race.
“It’s the same as in 2013, we come here with a very good time and personally I think I’m in really good shape,” Slagter tells Cyclingnews as he applies another dollop of sun cream to his fair shoulders and arms.
“The training has been good, it’s happy in the team and we’ll try our best for GC. If there are opportunities for stage wins, we’ll try there as well.”
In the years since Slagter’s overall win, he has changed teams twice. He headed to Cannondale in 2014 and switched again last winter from the American team to Dimension Data. In that period of time, he has hit some high notes – two stage wins at Paris-Nice, a third and a fourth in the two Canadian WorldTour races, two stages at the Tour of Alberta and smattering of top-ten results. However, consistency has been lacking and stagnation, it must be fair to say, has set in. In fact, a recent article in the Dutch press asked whether Slagter’s career had peaked too early and that despite entering what should be his prime, he was past his best.
The 28-year-old Dutchman believes, however, that with a new team, a fresh kit, and different support, he can rekindle the form of old – and perhaps most importantly, maintain it.
“Changing teams was pretty smooth and the transition was good. I came from a very relaxed, but professional team, and I’ve seen the same atmosphere here,” he said. “I feel comfortable at Dimension Data and everyone is working well. I had a few other opportunities but I had the best feeling with this team. That helped make my decision.
“One of the biggest reasons I came here as due to my role in the team. They wanted me for a specific role, and I can do those things here, and at the same time I like to work for others at some races. There are different opportunities.”
And what of those years, between his Tour Down Under success, and this 2018 incarnation?
“It’s sometimes difficult to say but that’s one of the things that I want to improve and maintain so that once I’m at a good level I can maintain it for a longer period. I’m working really well with the trainer at the team now and to see how I can achieve that. For sure there’s a new motivation, and it was a good time to change teams.”
The 2018 season represents a new dawn for Slagter; the chance to rediscover what made him standout and then tap it before it’s too late.
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