Tom Danielson's stage four win at the Vuelta a Burgos on Saturday was his first of the season and is a strong indication of a steady build up towards top form after a disrupted season. He came within seconds of hanging on to the overall victory, but lost time to Spaniard Alejandro Valverde on the final kilometre of the tough final climb, the hors categorie Lagunas de Neila.
"[It was a] great battle with Valverde today. My team was flawless and I definitely felt very strong on the climb," Danielson remarked on Twitter. "Tactically Valverde played me very well. Hats off to him and a great ride by my team. Stage with and overall podium is something to be very happy with!"
Danielson fell to third overall behind stage winner Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia) and overall winner Valverde. Yet the stage win on Saturday was encouraging for the American who has had a difficult time living up to his early career's promise.
“Today was a big test,” said Danielson after Saturday's stage win. “I have been working relentlessly on my condition as well as my head. It is nice to see what happens when both come together. The course was very challenging as it was a power course with a lot of wind."
Danielson's win in the 15 kilometre individual time trial around Ribera del Duero led a Garmin-Slipstream one-two; teammate Danny Pate finished 10 seconds behind. The two American riders also moved into first and second on general classification as a result of their strong rides.
"This result shows that I am a complete rider and I am coming into form," said Danielson. "I am very happy to say the least. To be leading the race is another bonus. However, right now I am just going to enjoy today and deal with tomorrow."
Danielson led Valverde by just five seconds after the time trial on Saturday, and while the American clung to the Spaniard's wheel for the majority of the climb, an attack by Valverde with 1km to go proved to be too much.
Still, the stage win signaled a remarkable turn around for Danielson this season. He started in the Giro d'Italia in May, but a parasitic infection prior to the Italian Grand Tour saw him finish 78th overall. Despite an improved performance at the Tour de Suisse in June, where he finished 22nd overall, Danielson was left out of the Garmin team for the Tour de France.
"Tom actually is starting to be a much more stable rider," Garmin Manager Jonathan Vaughters told Cyclingnews at the time. "He did a solid Tour de Suisse. But if I was going to take a spot away from a time trialist or a lead-out man [for the Tour de France], I wanted to dedicate it to a pure climber. Tom is almost to the point where he's re-finding his crazy fast climbing legs, but he's not quite there - he will be before the end of the year."