Van Garderen and Slagter show the future is in good hands

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Races like the Tour Down Under and the Tour de San Luis are showing exactly why we should cherish the return of competition cycling.

These races, in fact any races happening now, give the sport a chance to focus on the future, and (hopefully) an era free from endemic doping.

So how appropriate the likely winner of one, and possibly both of those races are key to that future.

As I write BMC’s Teejay van Garderen is only 17 seconds from the lead with two stages of the Tour de San Luis to run.

The American looks the real deal and at 24 is just what American cycling needs now, someone to make them forget about Lance.

He had a huge 2012; fifth at last year’s Tour De France and 1st in the young rider’s classification. He earned the same results at Paris-Nice, and finished fourth in the at the UCI World TT championship and also fourth at Tour of California.

Those results show van Garderen has the attributes Grand Tour winners need.

Dutch cycling also needs exciting young winners too, especially the riders and staff of Team Blanco.

Financially supported by Rabobank for this season only, they need a sponsor by the end of the year or one of the most famous modern teams in cycling will cease to exist.

Tom Slagter’s performance at the Tour Down Under is an impressive start to the search for a new sponsor.

A stage win, a second place and a (likely) World Tour stage race victory is beyond anything Team Blanco would have been expecting from him this week.

But then the 23 year-old Slagter has always surprised, that’s why Rabobank signed him up in 2010.

A former Dutch U23 Road race champion, Slagter is described as a climbing specialist. His results include a 30th overall at last year’s Giro, 40th at the mountainous Tour de Suisse, and 5th in the KOM at the Tour of Poland. As a junior, he placed 7th in the junior Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

No one has ever overturned a 13-second deficit on the final day of the Santos Tour Down Under, so he looks a safe bet to claim both overall honours and best young rider classification when the riders complete stage six later today.

He also lead the TDU’s best young rider category and a look at that classification suggests a more than good future for Tom Slagter.

Cadel Evans, Sandy Casar, Phil Gilbert, Luis Leon Sanchez, Simon Clarke, Jurgen Roelandts and Cameron Meyer have all won the young rider competition.

Collectively that group has won the Tour De France, 17 Grand Tour stages, World Championships on road and track at Elite and Junior level plus multiple national titles.

And Slagter will join Meyer and Sanchez as the only riders to win both the TDU overall and young rider honours in the same year.

And it’s not just the numbers that impress about Slagter.

When he won stage 2, he outsprinted Orica-GreenEDGE’s Matt Goss on the uphill finish in Stirling.

Slagter may have lost to Gerrans in stage 5, but his burst of speed to catch and initially pass the defending champion was stunning.

Slagter would’ve known he didn’t need to win the stage; he just had to put five seconds into SKY’s Geraint Thomas. He would’ve known the second place time bonus would do that but found another 28 seconds on him for good measure.

As a Dutchman, he’ll feel quite at home in ochre. It’s not orange but it’s not far off.

The old Rabobank riders will like it too.

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