• ADELAIDE 17 - 25 January 2015
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Slagter backs himself and wins in Stirling

Dutch young gun Tom-Jelte Slagter this morning predicted he'd win and this afternoon he delivered claiming victory in the bikeexchange.com.au third stage of the Santos Tour Down Under.

"Wat a mooie aankomst [what a beautiful finish]," he exclaimed in delight. "I couldn’t expect anything better for my first pro win.

"(Australian team mate) David Tanner put the hammer down with one kilometre to go, that was pretty far but he delivered me in a really good position to open my sprint with 350 metres to go," said Slagter.

At the start line in Unley the 22 year old from the Blanco team said the finish in the Adelaide Hills today suited him well and his fourth place yesterday had given him confidence that today he could win.

And win he did surging ahead on the uphill finish into Stirling to hold off Tasmanian Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) and world champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) who finished second and third respectively.

"It's always disappointing when you a lose sprint when someone goes off the front," said Goss. "The boys gave me a lot of motivation to hang in there and keep going but we didn't quite get the win.

"Slagter slipped away and me and Gilbert closed him down, but it was too late," said Goss adding that he was nonetheless happy with his sprint. "We've done a lot of base work. I haven't done the intensity. I am coming in at a fit level, but just don't have that intensity yet.

"To be honest, I didn't expect ride on point today. The race was raced a little bit differently. I have to take it as it comes."

It was a hard fought 139 kilometre stage raced in hot, dry conditions and third placed Gilbert, who crashed during yesterday's stage where he was tipped as a favourite to win, says the heat was a factor today.

"I think I am still feeling the jetlag and the big difference in temperature. It was 40C on the SRM when we come from 5C," explained the Belgian star. “I was suffering a bit in the first hour in the arm and chest. After an hour, it was OK."

Despite the heat Gilbert says he was well placed to strike in the final kilometre.

"It was a perfect finale, but the guy from Movistar left a gap. When you lose 10-15 metres, it's hard to come (back). I came back, but Goss came past me. It's third, OK."

Slagter began the day wearing the Cycle Instead Best Young Rider jersey and ranked fourth overall, 14 seconds behind overnight leader, Geraint Thomas (Sky Pro Cycling) who crossed the line in fourth place in Stirling. Slagter's stage win has moved him up to second overall a mere five seconds in arrears of the Welshman.

"I’m glad to increase my lead on the Best Young Rider classification and now I’m coming really close to the leader’s jersey too," said Slagter. "There has been a big fight today for one second that Geraint Thomas took (at the first Jayco intermediate sprint), there will be more to come.

"Every sprint will be contested. I’m in a good position on GC. It would have been cool to have the ochre (leader's) jersey, but at least I’m now confident of being one of the three best riders in this race."

Thomas praised Sky ProCycling for their efforts protecting him during the stage.

"The boys from my team were tremendous to control the race all day, then it was down to me to get time bonus by finishing in the top 3," said Thomas. "I finished fourth but I still have the jersey. I hope to keep it till the end now.

"There should be a bunch sprint tomorrow, then it’ll come down to Willunga. TJ Slagter is obviously a danger for my position but it’s not just a duel, RadioShack still has three guys up there, Movistar has a few too."

Thomas also leads the Skoda King of the Mountain contest. Today boasted a category 2 climb at Eagle on the Hill that came 6.2km into the stage. Local hero Jack Bobridge of the Blanco team claimed top points ahead of South African Daryl Impey of Orica-GreenEDGE with Spaniard Garikoitz Bravo Oiarbide (Euskaltel-Euskadi) third. That put Bobridge equal on points with Thomas but trailing on a countback in the climber's classification.

Soon after the climb Tasmanian Will Clarke (Argos Shimano), who won the stage into Stirling last year, and Victorian Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEDGE) (no relation) rode clear of the bunch.

"Our team didn’t have a good day yesterday," said Simon Clarke. "We wanted to make it up and be aggressive with having at least one rider in the early breakaway, it had to be Daryl Impey, Luke Durbridge or myself. As it worked out, I found the right wheel and I did what I could.

"It’s been good because it took the pressure off the team. Gossy [Matt Goss] coming second is a good result. It was funny to hear ‘go Clarke’ as we were two Clarke’s up the road. Will and I looked at each other and laughed. We got that feeling that we doubled the amount of spectators."

For his efforts today Simon Clarke was named the Europcar Most Competitive Rider of the stage.

Watching the action today was five time Tour de France winner, Bernard Hinault who is in South Australia as a guest of the event and will be honoured at Saturday night's Legend's Dinner gala.

"This is my first time in Adelaide. I was in Australia before in 1987 and visited Melbourne and Sydney. It's a lovely country," said Hinault. "I only have arrived last night, so I have not had a chance to sample the wines. Everyone says they have wonderful wine in this area.

"Races like the Tour Down Under are good for cycling. They bring the sport to new countries, to new markets. It is also good for the riders. The globalisation of the sport is the future of cycling."

The stage today travelled out from Adelaide and featured six circuits of a 21 kilometre loop out and back from Stirling and working together Clarke and Clarke forged a lead of more than three minutes by the time they reached the first of the day's two Jayco intermediate sprints at Heathfield (35.2km). Will Clarke won the five points and three second time bonus with Simon second. Santos Tour Down Under leader Geraint Thomas rode through at the front of the peloton for third place and a one second time bonus.

The lead pair rode through Heathfield for the final Jayco intermediate sprint at the 56.6km mark in the same order but in the bunch it was Dutchman Maarten Tjallingii (Blanco) who grabbed the third place points.

The leaders kept up the pace while those in the peloton bided their time waiting to pounce. As the duo went under the finish arch for the second last circuit the pressure was on with a group of six riders joining them in front including Simon Clarke's team mate Daryl Impey from South Africa, Swiss rider Steve Morabito (BMC), Costa Rica's Andrey Amador (Movistar), Dutchman Boy van Poppel (Vacansoleil-DCM), Frenchman Thierry Hupond of Argos Shimano and Dane Brian Vandborg of Cannondale.

The group of eight worked hard to gain a gap but the margin didn't grow and as the final kilometres approached they were swallowed by the chasing bunch.

"It was a hard race today. You always hope to hold off for the win, but it's so hard in a WorldTour race," said Will Clarke. "The peloton controlled it. We were out there all day. When the other guys came up to us, it was only a gap of 30 seconds. We knew how quickly they can close the gap. I ran out of gas when the bunch caught us."

Radioshack-Leopard remains in the lead in the Hindmarsh winning team classification.

One rider who did not have a great day was reigning American road champion Timothy Duggan who crashed at a roundabout and was taken to hospital for treatment. It was bad luck for the 30 year old from the Saxo-Tinkoff team who at the start was talking of being in the action.

"Today is one of those days where I can look to get into a breakaway. The long, grinding climb at the beginning of the stage is what I love to do," said Duggan before the start.

"It was 2km to go on the circuit with two laps to go on the round-about, he was on the right side," said Duggan's team director Fabrizio Guidi of the crash. "The doctor was immediately there, that was good. He was conscious and he was talking before they took him to the hospital. I don't know what happened, but he had pain on the collarbone. We have to wait.

"Chris-Anker Sorensen (team mate) also crashed. He is OK. He finished in the first group. Now we have to recover and see what we can do in this race," said Guidi.

Tomorrow the race begins in Modbury before travelling through the Adelaide Hills to the finish line in Tanunda in the heart of the renowned wine-growing Barossa region. Also on the road tomorrow will be six-and-a-half thousand recreational riders taking part in the annual Bupa Challenge Tour presented by The Advertiser that kicks off early in the morning and takes the participants over the same route as the professionals in the Santos Tour Down Under.

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