2011 was a breakout year for Tom Danielson. The Garmin-Cervelo rider not only finished on the podium at the Amgen Tour of California, but he backed up a ninth place overall finish in the Tour de Suisse with an even more impressive ninth place finish in his debut Tour de France.
Tom acknowledges that a Tour ride was a long time coming. "I guess while looking from the outside it has taken me a while to get here. I guess from the inside this year just felt right going into the race. I would have liked to have gone earlier to gain some experience in the event rather than the first time you do it you are contending for GC."
"It definitely was a full plate for my first Tour, but at the same time I have had some experience. I have done the Vuelta. I have done the Giro. I have had some experience so I wasn't worried about the three weeks, but certainly the intensity of the three weeks was a lot higher than the other races. The level of the race was a lot higher than the other races. When you combine the level with the intensity you just get an incredible event which just happens to last 21 days," adds Danielson.
Since it's first Tour in 2008, Slipstream Sports has placed at least one rider in the overall top ten, and Danielson's ninth place GC finish in 2011 continued that string of successes. What was the key to that result? "I think consistency was where I shined. I was always consistent in the mountain stages and the time trials. I think that I was in good position a lot of time especially on the flat stages," said Danielson.
What will Tom be looking on to improve at the 2012 Tour? "Maybe more going with the flow with regards to racing and performance rather than having an expectation and forcing it. Just going into the race with an open mind and confidence.
"Once I found myself in the position of being top 10. I made the mistake of making that a goal. I really wanted that result so I raced for that result. I was really happy with it, but perhaps I lost a little bit of that 'free' mentality. I really wanted to finish top-10. Although I really needed it for my career and it was the right thing to do.
"This year, I really want to get out of that shell where I have been, sort of a top-10 rider, and really want to put more on the line and race more 'free' more without looking anywhere other than what I am doing at the moment. I think if I can do that, I can race to my full potential and go to races with confidence and no fear. If it works out, it works out and if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out."
Danielson feels that mentality will be part of his overall objectives for 2012. "The goal for the whole season is to get out of that shell. My wife brought it to my attention that I have finished ninth in quite a few races. I want to get out of that conservative shell where I would back off on some of the climbs and try to regain where I was at the beginning of my career which was fearless and free. I would get to the climbs that would suit me and I would do my own thing and not worry about what other guys were doing or what could happen or what is happening."
Along those lines Tom is returning to his roots to begin 2012. "I am going to start my season at Tour of Langkawi which is a race that is close to my heart. I made my career there. I think that surrounding myself in an atmosphere like that I think that will help put me in that environment that I need to be in to start 2012 with the mental framework to get the job done."
Danielson has also been making major modifications to his training. "I think the biggest thing that I have learned to do with my training program is to relax a bit more the last couple of years. Don't force it so much in training just do the work and let it come rather than have all these expectations that this type of training equals this type of result. As we know it never really happens."
Now a family man, Tom realizes it has had a positive effect on his racing. "When I first became a dad, immediately, my results started to improve. I got back into the top 10 at the Vuelta and started to go really well again. As my son grew older I really started to bond with him. That was a huge component in me having the season that I did in 2011.
"You just realize that how important your job is and who is relying on you, but at the same time you realize that at the end of the day whether it goes well or it goes poorly out on the road you have this beautiful family to come home to and enjoy. And that's really why you are on this planet to take care of them and enjoy life with them."
With a Tour top 10 under his belt and a new attitude toward racing, the 2012 season holds a multitude of possibilities for Tom Danielson. And with the support of his family, a new training program and the backing of a very experienced Garmin-Cervelo team look for Tommy D to have another standout year in the European pro peloton.