Tom Danielson shows what he can do in his first Tour de France
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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tom Danielson shows what he can do in his first Tour de France

by VeloNation Press at 5:28 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Garmin-Cervélo rider in top ten after first mountain stage

Tom DanielsonAs suggested before the race by Garmin-Cervélo chief Jonathan Vaughters, Tom Danielson is proving to be one of the big dark horses of this year’s Tour de France. A talented rider who rode strongly in the Vuelta a España but was never previously selected for cycling’s biggest event, he has overcome health issues and nerves to ride into a place in the top ten of his first Tour de France.

The American rider was one of those left in a select group close to the top of Luz Ardiden today, riding shoulder to shoulder with Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank SunGard), the Schleck brothers Andy and Frank (Leopard Trek), Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team), Ivan Basso (Liquigas) and others. He ultimately crossed the line one minute three seconds behind the solo stage winner Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel Euskadi), and moved to ninth in the general classification.

Danielson is now the leading North American rider, four minutes 35 seconds off the yellow jersey. He lost time early during the race and would otherwise be much closer to the top of the general classification. Levi Leipheimer, the next US rider, is eight places and three minutes 16 seconds further back.

“I felt good, stayed steady and listened to my body,” he said after the stage. “I rode the best I could and I was pretty close in the end, so I am satisfied.”

He’d like to have been closer to the big GC guys, but accepts how things turned out. “I cannot complain. I was a little empty at the end, with those guys’ accelerations came. For me, the key is to be steady every single day, and when I have an opportunity, take it.”

As was the case with Bradley Wiggins in the 2009 Tour de France, Danielson will have the backing of the other big riders on the team. Christian Vande Velde and Ryder Hesjedal had gone into the race regarded as the more likely GC riders, but both have been caught up in crashes and were not at their best in recent days. Vande Velde was 34th today, dropping 14 minutes, while Hesjedal conceded over 18 minutes in placing 38th.

That means that Danielson is far ahead of both in the overall standings, and he will get their full backing in the days ahead.

“I’ve been really beaten up these past few days, so I was happy to get over the Tourmalet and be there for Tom,” said Hesjedal. “Tom’s riding great, we just need to be around him and support him best as possible. He showed it today. I was there for him in the last four Ks of this final climb. Based on how I felt the last few days, I was happy with what I was able to do what I could today.”

Vande Velde also pledged his support. “The crashes just caught up with me today. I was feeling twisted on the bike, my back really hurt, I had no power. Crashing five times in the first half of the Tour doesn’t help. Now we’ll help Tom, he’s riding great.”

One major improvement in Danielson’s game is his mental approach. He was regarded before as a rider who burned up a lot of energy through nerves, but said that becoming a father helped him put things in perspective and to not get so wound up.

He finished third in the Tour of California and ninth in the Tour de Suisse, securing a late slot on the Garmin-Cervélo team. While he may have been one of the last to be selected, he’s very much underlining his ability in this Tour de France.

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