Tom Danielson interview part II: Targeting big performances in Langkawi and beyond
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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tom Danielson interview part II: Targeting big performances in Langkawi and beyond

by Shane Stokes at 12:01 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Tour de Langkawi
American rider to take a more ambitious approach in 2012 season

Tom DanielsonAs detailed in part I of this interview, Tom Danielson heads into the 2012 season with greater focus and confidence than in the past. Taking eighth in last year’s Tour de France was a major moment for him and, as he explained then, has affected his mentality in a number of ways, not least his motivation.

In a bid to profit from that and also to further enhance his morale and experience, the American has worked out the perfect race programme with his Garmin-Barracuda team. The idea is to start with one of his favourite events on the international calendar, the Tour de Langkawi, striving for a big performance there, then head back to Europe and tackle a string of stage races.

The Tour of California will come later on, Danielson building up for the race via a training camp back home, then he’ll do more competition prior to the Tour start on June 30th.

He’s got reason to believe that the 2012 edition will be good for him; not only is he more confident than before, but it also features a parcours that could play to his strengths very well. He’s both good on uphills and against the clock, and those two attributes will be crucial in the race.

“I’m excited about the route, certainly,” he told VeloNation as part of a long interview carried out this month. “It’s a great opportunity for me to have a race with steep, hard mountains and good mountain stages, as well as longer and harder time-trials. It’s a great opportunity for me, and I’ve got to take advantage of it.”

There’s a lot of racing to come before then, though, and he plans to be ambitious for several targeted events. Although Danielson is now heading towards his 34th birthday, he’s got the hunger of a younger rider.

He’d also thrive mentally from winning a shorter stage race or two, particularly as his last such overall victory was in the 2005 Tour de Georgia.

If he could pick up a GC success prior to July, he’d be even more fired up to chase a podium slot in the race.

VeloNation: This year, what’s your schedule like between now and the Tour?

Tom Danielson: I’m really happy with my team and I think they’ve given me an awesome opportunity to have a great race schedule, and one that really correlates well with good performances.

I think the key here for me is to sort of focus on performing well in races. I want to get away from perhaps how I’ve been in the past, to get away from racing so conservatively. My idea was to start the season in the Tour of Langkawi, which is a race that is very close to my heart. I love Malaysia, I love the race. It really made my career, that race. And I love the climb of Genting Highlands.

So, I think that’s a great place to start this whole thing off. I can go down there with an objective to ride strongly and race to my best performance. I’m not going to name a specific goal, but I’ll just give my all every single day and just see how that turns out. Hopefully it will work out well. I think that’s a good place put everything together and start the season off on a good foot.

Tom DanielsonAfter that, I’ll go to the Tour of Catalunya, which is in the Girona region [where he lives in Europe – ed.] I haven’t seen a route but hopefully it’s got a mountain top finish. I really wish for a time-trial but we’ll see. It’s another opportunity to perform well.

Then, to conclude the first part of my season, I’ll do the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. This race is extremely challenging for me. This will be a really good test. I’ve always got my butt kicked there. That said, every time I’ve got my butt kicked, I’ve come out in good shape!

I would prefer to perform well there this time round. It’ll be a really nice test to see if I can mature and develop a little bit more as a racer, and get a result there. It’s challenging for me - it’s small roads, it’s short climbs, and a lot of the guys that are good at these short climbs are peaking. So it’s a really good test.

At that point we’ll see where I’m at, then I’ll go back to the US for a month and a half and take a little rest, and start to regroup and prepare for the Tour. Next then will be the Tour of California, and then I’ll do the Tour de Suisse, and then the Tour de France.

VN: You mentioned Malaysia and wanting to go well as soon as possible. I know you don’t want to focus on a specific result as such, but given that it is the first race of the year, do you think you could have the form to contend on Genting?

TD: Well, there’s still some time to go to the race [editor’s note – this interview was done earlier this month]. As I’m talking to you now, I feel very good and I think I’ve had a good off season. Personally, I’m in good shape, although I don’t know what kind of shape everyone else is in.

I don’t think I’ll be creeping there, but it’s the first race and there are so many unknown factors.

But yeah, I’d like to perform well and contend for the race, for sure. It’s a beautiful race. Let’s just put it this way…I’m not going to fly all the way to Malaysia to sit around in the peloton! If I can place well then I will, you know. If other guys are better than me, than they are just better than me, there’s nothing I can do about that.

VN: Given that you took one of your first big wins there back in 2003 (pictured), obviously it’s race with a nice memory and special significance in your career?

TD: Yeah, sure. You can’t really find a climb better than Genting Highlands, can you [laughs]? Too bad they don’t have that in the Tour de France!

VN: Dave Zabriskie is said to be part of the team for Langkawi…

Tom DanielsonTD: Yeah, Zabriskie is definitely going. I think Tom Peterson, I think Alex Howes, I think Nathan Haas, and I think Raymond Kreder. Originally, I think Dan Martin was supposed to go but then I saw that he was not going so. I assume he’s probably keeping it for France or something.

Anyway, I’m really excited that our team is able to do it and I think it will be a lot of fun for sure. Looks like we have a good field too, which is different to the years past. In recent editions, think they only had one or two guys that are really good climbers, but right now it’s pretty solid.

There’s Vinokourov, Rujano, and that guy who won last year [Yonnatha Monsalve – ed.]…I’m sure he is flying. Any of those guys on that Italian team full of Venezuelans and Colombians, Serpa and all those guys, just haul ass. Rujano is one of the best guys in the world when he is on.

VN: Finally, looking forward to the Tour de France - there’s more time-trialing this year. Presumably you are happy with that?

TD: Oh, yeah. It’s really forced me to ride my time-trial more and put a little bit more focus into it. I didn’t start riding my time-trial bike till later last year, and you could see it in my results. For me, there’s a strong correlation for me between performing well on the time-trials and riding my time-trial bike.

I’m excited about the route, certainly. It’s a great opportunity for me to have a race with steep hard mountains and good mountain stages, as well as longer and harder time trials. I’ve heard that the time-trials are not going to be easy, I heard they are going to be quite hilly. So it’s a great opportunity for me, and I’ve got to take advantage of it.

This is a great situation to be in, so I’ll work hard. Obviously, it motivates you when you know that you have an opportunity rather than, say, if the Tour de France course route was all downhill with sprint stages…

VN: So that bodes well for July…

TD: Well, I think it’s exciting for me. But I know I have to work hard too. I can’t just sit here and say ‘oh, on paper I’m a good time-trialist, on paper I can climb well.’ You’ve got to work hard and you know that all the other guys are working hard. But, it’s cool…I’m excited.

In part I of this interview, Danielson spoke about his new mental approach to the sport, his improving confidence, and how performing strongly in last year’s Tour changed him as an athlete.


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