BIOT, France (VN) — Tom Jelte Slagter (Garmin-Sharp) can walk away from Paris-Nice a satisfied man after winning his second stage Saturday to make up for disappointment just 24 hours earlier that cost him a shot at the final podium.
While avoiding a crash, Slagter’s derailleur was damaged at the base of the final climb in Fayence. When he pounced to make his move at the top, his derailleur broke, and he was forced to walk across the line, well out of the GC hunt.
“I woke up this morning and I was still frustrated, but when I looked at the course profile, I knew it was perfect for me,” Slagter said. “It’s too bad about what happened, but now I can leave the race satisfied with two stage victories.”
Rewind to Friday’s decisive hilltop finale at Fayence, and Slagter was poised to make a run for glory. He clipped wheels with another rider — ironically compatriot and former teammate Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) — in the jostle for position at the base of the steep climb.
Kelderman’s front wheel went into Slagter’s derailleur. Both came up empty. Kelderman was forced to take a hurried wheel change, but so close to the line, there was nothing he could do. He flew up the climb, losing just 41 seconds to race leader Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale), but he tumbled out of the top 10.
Slagter immediately knew his derailleur was damaged, but pressed on. When he stood out of the saddle with in the final switchback, his gears froze up. Instead of sprinting for the stage win and a shot at the GC, he was looking at disbelief as his crumpled derailleur.
“It would have been fantastic to be in the top three in a race as important as Paris-Nice, but there’s nothing I can do it about it now,” Slagter said. “I changed my mind, and decided to try to win today. With the win today, I am happy.”
His strong week only boosts his morale for the upcoming classics.
“This is the best start of the season for races like Milano-Sanremo and the classics,” he said. “I hope I can keep this form going into the classics. This is the best motivation, having these results here.”
Slagter will join Garmin’s growing presence for the Ardennes, where he will link up with defending Liège-Bastogne-Liège champion Dan Martin, Ryder Hesjedal, Fabian Wegmann, and American Alex Howes.
The scrappy puncheur is also slated to start the Giro d’Italia, where he will ride to support Martin and Hesjedal.
“Both of those guys have achieved a lot in their careers, with Martin last year at Liège, and Ryder in the Giro. Those are good examples to follow,” he said. “At the Giro, I will stay with them as long as possible. Dan and Ryder will be the leaders, and when I am in my best form, I can be there on the long climbs for them.”
If Paris-Nice is any indication, Slagter will give Garmin-Sharp an extra card to play across the Classics and Giro.