Slagter hitting his stride just as season nears its close

Tom-Jelte Slagter's form may be arriving too late to make the Dutch worlds team, but should allow him to lay down a marker for next season

MONTREAL (VN) — For many riders in the pro peloton, the first two weeks of September are a time for preparation. Results in the Vuelta, the Tour of Britain, or the Canadian GPs are nice in their own right, of course, but for some, the most important item on the docket is fine-tuning form ahead of the world championships.

Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale-Garmin) has hit his stride at a time when many riders would be thrilled to find themselves in form. He won two stages and took third overall in the Tour of Alberta, and finished just off the podium in Friday’s Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec, sprinting to fourth place in pretty impressive company.

For the 26-year-old from the Netherlands, success in Canada is a welcome change after months without results. But unlike many of the big stars at Québec and the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal, he isn’t racing to build up his form for Richmond.

Slagter was not selected for the Dutch world championship squad.

As strong as he has looked this month, it’s a case of too little, too late for Slagter, at least in terms of worlds. Injury hampered him early in the year, and although he has since recovered, the team selection was made before his recent display of form.

“The main thing during the last winter was for me, a problem with the knee, which started me a little bit later,” Slagter told VeloNews. “I had some problems still in the beginning of January, so it was a bit of a slow start. I think since halfway through the season, I’m going better and better and I think the form is there now.”

The timing might not be ideal, but Slagter already seems to have gotten over any disappointment he might have felt missing the team selection, allowing him to set his mind to the task at hand, a campaign of Canadian races culminating in Sunday’s GP Montréal.

“I’m focused on these races,” he said. “I’ve known it for a while since the press release was out [in August]. The only thing I can do is show myself in the races and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Maybe there is an upside to the position Slagter is in. The looming world championships have drawn a number of potential Richmond contenders to Canada, where they can get accustomed to the time-zone difference in North America a few weeks ahead of worlds. Making things even more competitive, some very big names are in excellent shape right now, ready to make their bids for the rainbow jersey — but while many of the riders in Canada have one eye on worlds, Slagter has been able to focus 100 percent on his results in the here and now. His form won’t do him much good two weeks from now.

“I think everybody who is here is in the best shape to show themselves and do good results, because the races are quite important as well, so that’s what I’m doing — I go home tomorrow, that’s the difference,” he said.

Delivering strong results in Canada is also allowing Slagter to put down a marker for next season. Cannondale-Garmin is losing Dan Martin to Etixx-Quick-Step and Ryder Hesjedal to Trek Factory Racing for 2016, and that leaves Slagter poised to assume the role of the team’s top rider for the hilly classics. He’s ready to take on that challenge.

“That’s what I want for the future,” he said. “Last year I did good results in Flèche Wallonne and in Liège, so I hope I can make another step to the very best guys.”