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"Besides Paris-Nice, I will focus on the classics in the spring and then the Giro. Basically, I will ride for Hesjedal and Martin in Italy but if I am feeling good, I will get my own chances. As for the classics, I would like to get a...

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TOM-JELTE SLAGTER

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02.01.2014 @ 15:22 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Tom-Jelte Slagter is preparing himself for his first season as a Garmin-Sharp rider after leaving Belkin aft at the end of the season. The powerful puncheur will focus on Paris-Nice in the early part of the season and will then go for a top 10 result in the Ardennes classics before supporting Daniel Martin and Ryder Hesjedal in the Giro d'Italia.

 

All was set for t big season for Tom-Jelte Slagter when the Dutch talent won the season-opening WorldTour race Tour Down Under in impressive fashion. However, the remaining part of the season didn't live up to expectations and he never managed to reach similar heights later in the year.

 

Having grown up in the Rabobank Continental Team and raced his first three professional seasons on the Rabobank/Belkin team, Slagter has now decided that it is time for a new challenge. In 2014, the Dutchman will leave his familiar surroundings as he has signed a contract with the Garmin-Sharp team.

 

The change caused some controversy as Slagter apparently felt that his team tried to blackmail him into signing a new contract with the team. As a consequence, he missed out on selection for the Tour de France but he has now put the controversies behind and is ready for a new chapter in his career.

 

That will not include a return to the Tour Down Under. Having originally been scheduled to defend his title, Slagter has decided to stay in the Netherlands as his wife is due to give birth to their first child. Instead, Rohan Dennis will lead the Garmin campaign in Australia.

 

"You lose at least one day by traveling from Australia to the Netherlands," he told Cyclingonline in  an interview. "I don't want to take that risk. Of course it is a pity to miss the Tour Down Under. In that race, I experienced what has so far been the sporting highlight of my career. But now I am experiencing something very beautiful."

 

His absence also gives him the chance to reach his peak condition later than usual.

 

"Moreover, for the next season it is not a great shame for me to miss this race," he added. "In recent years, I have already been in shape in January and February but this year I want to peak later. Now I have more time to work on my condition."

 

Slagter is known as a strong puncheur who excels on short, steep climbs like the Willunga Hill where he laid the foundations for his Tour Down Under win. While the course for Paris-Nice has not yet been presented, organizers ASO have shown an outline to the major teams, and this year's edition of the French race seems to be one that suits puncheurs like Slagter perfectly.

 

This has forced more traditional stage racers like Andrew Talansky to skip the event in favour of the Tirreno-Adriatico whose inclusion of a summit finish, a time trial and a team time trial suits is one suits grand tour riders better. However, Slagter will relish the chance to test himself in France in a race that is tailor-made for him.

 

"The first race for me is Paris-Nice," he said. "With the team, we made that decision last week. Initially I was supposed to ride the Tirreno but the course for Paris-Nice suits me much better. There is no time trial and no stage with a long climb at the end."

 

Slagter has twice done the Giro and has been at the Vuelta once. In 2014 he will return to Italy where he will not focus on the GC.

 

Instead, he will support Daniel Martin and Ryder Hesjedal while targeting a stage win for himself.

 

"Besides Paris-Nice, I will focus on the classics in the spring and then the Giro," he said. "Basically, I will ride for Hesjedal and Martin in Italy but if I am feeling good, I will get my own chances."

 

Before getting to the Giro, Slagter will line up in the Ardennes classics which suit him down to the ground. In the past, he has struggled with the distance of the longest races but he hopes to overcome that challenge in 2014.

 

" As for the classics, I would like to get a top 10 result," he said. This season I was 14th in the Fleche Wallonne and that's a race whose finish could not suit me better. The distance suits me fine. In Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Amstel Gold Race, I hope to get to the finale. Last spring, I did the Walloon classics for the first time but after 200km I noticed that the best were too strong.

 

In the autumn, Slagter will again have his focus on hilly one-day races.

 

"In terms of the autumn, everything is not yet decided," he said. "All I do know is that I will focus on the WorldTour races in Canada. Those races suit me excellently."

 

Despite having a later start than usual, Slagter is already back in training. He will train in Spain with compatriot and teammate Dylan Van Baarle.

 

"In November, we had a sort of introduction to the team," he said. "The real training camp follows in February. Many teams have their training camps earlier but team manager Jonathan Vaughters has chosen to skip a few races. My plan is to go to Spain by myself. In early January, the weather is perfect and so I can work on your shape.

 

"When I look at my condition , I miss the sharpness," he added. "The whole year you race to maintain your sharpness and if you do not do anything for three weeks, the sharpness is gone. I know that I can get into shape rather quickly. It is more a question about keeping the shape for a bit longer. Now it is first about working on my endurance."

 

The stage and overall win in last year's Tour Down Under are Slagter's only professional wins so far.

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