Giro d’Italia: Tom-Jelte Slagter “a whole lot wiser” after coming close in Assisi
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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Giro d’Italia: Tom-Jelte Slagter “a whole lot wiser” after coming close in Assisi

by Ben Atkins at 3:14 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia
 
Three attacks on the final climb surprise Rabobank second-year pro as he finishes with the best

tom-jelte slagterThe most aggressive rider by far on the final climb to Assisi’s Piazza del Comune was Rabobank’s Tom-Jelte Slagter. The 22-year-old second-year pro from Groningen in the far-north of the Netherlands put in three separate attacks on the two-part climb, and it was his acceleration in the final half-kilometre that drew stage winner Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) out of the pack.

Slagter left last year’s Giro in an ambulance after crashing out of the fifth stage between Piombino and Orvieto, and fracturing his eye socket. He rode the Vuelta a España towards the end of the season, but this is the first time that the young Dutchman has ridden competitively in a Grand Tour. With the three-week race supposed to be a learning experience, he is already finding that he is learning a lot about his own capabilities.

“I certainly am that bit wiser now,” he said after the stage. “I knew I had finishes like this in me, but to do so well among such great riders, I myself am hugely surprised at that. Mark Renshaw started me off perfectly at the foot of the climb; my position was ideal; the legs felt good; so then I just tried it. Only later I learned that I had totally pulled that group apart. Scarponi reacted immediately.”

Having been closed down after his first attack, Slagter tried again shortly afterwards; once again he was pulled back but, as Rodríguez teammate Dani Moreno pulled the leaders onto the narrow, cobbled streets to the finish, he went again in response to a move from Astana’s Paolo Tiralongo.

“[I approached the second part of the climb] somewhat differently,” he explained. “Again, I didn’t know myself that I was this good, otherwise I wouldn’t have gone on the attack so early, of course. After the second acceleration, my legs were still feeling very good. But in that last kilometre, my inexperience was getting the better of me. It was very narrow and there were only three of us. I still had some energy left over. Then you have another try and push on with a cunning Rodriguez in your wheel.”

Eventually, Rodríguez attacked himself with just 150 metres to go, and this time Slagter had little left to respond. As the Catalan sprinted away to take the stage and Maglia Rosa, Slagter drifted back a little into the chasing group; crossing the line in seventh place, six seconds behind the Catalan.

“Now I realise that this wasn’t the smartest move, but at that moment you’re on a high,” he admitted. “Ultimately I was the perfect leadout for Rodriguez. Even so, this feels amazing now. This is why you do it.”

In only his second year in Rabobank’s WorldTour team, Slagter is already being compared to Steven Kruijswijk, a fellow graduate of the team’s Continental feeder team. Kruijswijk finished 18th in his first Giro d’Italia in 2010, but went even better last year, in what was very much a breakthrough race for the then 23-year-old.

“I think that it’s a good comparison,” Slagter said. “Steven also recovers very well, and not all riders can do that. I have the feeling that it’s going really well for me in this Giro. My recovery after the stages is good, I’m not yet overly fatigued, all that goes away very easily.

“A ninth place in the overall classification like Steven’s is far away [eighth, after the disqualification of Alberto Contador - ed], of course,” he conceded, “but if I can pull this off, a good classification placement could be within my reach.”

After today’s stage Slagter sits in 27th position, just 2’43” behind new leader Rodríguez, but knows that the real test is to come in the final week of the race.

“I am now curious about how I’ll cope with long and steep cols at this level,” he said. “I don’t know this yet either. It will be my second stage of this exploratory quest.

“After today, I’m certainly looking forward to it.”

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