Dutch connection paved way for Slagter’s move to Garmin

Dutch rider says the presence of four countrymen helped him decide to switch to the U.S.-registered team

Tom-Jelte Slagter (Belkin) didn’t quite have the legs to fend off the French on home roads in the final stage of the Tour de l’Ain on Tuesday.

French winner Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) dropped Slagter, who snagged the leader’s jersey in Monday’s third stage, with 3km to go over the HC slopes of the Col de Grand Colombier.

Although Slagter fell from first to ninth at 2:09 back, his future remains wide open, and he’s set to join Garmin in 2014.

Slagter told VeloNews it was the presence of a handful of compatriots and the team’s depth that helped him pick the U.S.-registered team for his next professional home.

“There are a few Dutch guys on the team and I spoke to them,” Slagter told VeloNews. “There are also some young Americans and Australians that I know from the U23 races. They all told me good things about the team. The team is perfect for me.”

Among the Dutch riders already on Garmin are Martijn Maaskant, Thomas Dekker, and Michel and Raymond Kreder.

Slagter will give Garmin more options in the hilly, Ardennes classics as well as more firepower in short, punchy, uphill finales.

Just 24, Slagter packs a powerful punch in short, steep climbs, and is already a confirmed winner of shorter stage races, underscored by his victory at the Santos Tour Down Under to open the year.

“Garmin is a good place for me,” Slagter continued. “I have a good feeling about the team. It’s professional, with good riders. Dan Martin and Ryder Hesjedal are riders I admire and respect. I am looking forward to learning from them, and to take another step in my career.”

Just how far can he go? Even Slagter doesn’t know. Tuesday’s ride over the hors categorie climb in the Alps proved that he still has some work to do.

“I have been working on the longer climbs, but I don’t know if I can ever hope to win a grand tour,” he said. “When I was talking with Garmin, we’d agreed that I would ride one grand tour next year. Which one? It doesn’t really matter. I wanted to be on a team where I can do my own thing.”