Dutchman Tom-Jelte Slagter from Blanco Pro Cycling won the season-opening UCI WorldTour Tour Down Under yesterday, securing his first title as a professional.
Slagter stayed out of trouble in the final 90km stage through the streets of Adelaide to win the general classification in 18 hours, 28 minutes and 32 seconds, finishing 17 seconds ahead of Spaniard Javier Moreno (Movistar) and 25 clear of British rider Geraint Thomas (Sky Pro Cycling).
The 23-year-old Slagter, a former speed skater who only took up cycling to stay fit during the summer months, was almost at a loss for words to describe his emotions after his victory.
“It’s really strange for me, I’d never won a race like this,” he said. “My first win was [on stage three] at Stirling and that I take the jersey now, it’s really amazing. I can’t believe it, actually.”
Slagter conceded he would have to reassess his goals for the rest of the season after his form during the week.
“The start of the season couldn’t be better, for me and the team also,” he said. “The next goal will be the classics, with La Fleche Wallonne, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Amstel Gold. Those races are completely different, [but] I’ve got a bit more confidence now.”
Germany’s Andre Greipel proved he was the dominant sprinter when he overpowered Australian Mark Renshaw (Blanco) and Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) to win the final sprint and take his third stage win of the tour and his 14th overall.
After Greipel’s Lotto Belisol team led him out perfectly with 1km to go, Renshaw surprised the big German when he slipped past him with only 200m remaining.
However, Greipel did not panic and swept past Renshaw on the line to take the stage.
Slagter had gone into the final day with a 13-second advantage after a brilliant ride to finish second to Simon Gerrans in Saturday’s penultimate stage up Old Willunga Hill.
He was never in any real danger of losing the ochre leader’s jersey and stayed safely in the peloton for the duration of the race.
The real attack came from stage two winner Thomas, who lost the leader’s jersey to Slagter on Saturday, slipping from first to fifth in the process.
Thomas won the first intermediate sprint and came third in the second to pick up enough bonus seconds to move him to third place, leapfrogging Spaniard Jon Izagirre (Euskaltel Euskadi) and Belgium’s Ben Hermans (Radioshack Leopard).
“Obviously, we were disappointed yesterday, but there was still one more day of racing left and we still had a slight chance of getting third,” Thomas said. “The boys in the team were incredible again — it was a perfect day really and it’s been a pretty successful week. I was pretty down yesterday, but coming into the race, if I thought I could come away with a stage win, I’d have definitely been happy with that.”