Danielson, Vande Velde and Zabriskie return to racing at Volta a Catalunya
For local cycling fans Monday in Catalunya wasn’t just memorable for probably being the warmest day in Spain this year: stage one of the Volta a Catalunya was also where three riders with Garmin-Sharp, Christian Vande Velde, Tom Danielson and Dave Zabriskie - following a six month suspension for their involvement in the Lance Armstrong/US Postal affair - pinned on race numbers for the first time this season.
The atmosphere could hardly have been more relaxed in the small coastal resort of Calella: barely an autograph hunter or journalist in sight in the long line of team buses stretching down the sunlit seafront, even if there were a fair number of tourists gaping over barriers at the start area at a peloton containing such stars as Bradley Wiggins (Sky), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp).
As for Garmin-Sharp’s team bus, stuck in front of a sun-scarred hotel closed down for the off-season, the press ‘pack’ totalled precisely ‘one’ in number, the pressure as low-key as it could possibly be. And all three riders appeared good humoured and keen to be back into business when they climbed down the bus stairs and headed for the start.
“It’s nice to be at the start of a race and get back into things,” Danielson told Cyclingnews, “see the team, pin on the race number and it’s good to be near my home.”
“We know the roads, and it’s all familiar, so we can’t complain.” Whilst Vande Velde has done Catalunya ten times, Danielson said it’s “about his fourth or fifth.” Objectives? “To ride my bike and be a good teammate.”
“It’s good to be here,” said Zabriskie, the last Garmin-Sharp rider out of the team bus and his usual wry, deadpan self. Over the winter he said he had done little more than “training, training, training.” Catalunya is hardly the easiest of starts, with 26 classified climbs, making his debut in the week-long race was what he called, with a smile, “interesting.”
“For them it’s the first race and they’re motivated, which is logical given they’re racers and want to get back in the action,” Garmin-Sharp sports director Bingen Fernández told Cyclingnews.
“Being near their [European] homes [in Girona] will help them and give them a bit more morale because they’ll know the climbs. Its hard, but looking at what’s coming up, Criterium International and the Spring Classics, they have to hit the ground running.”
“They’re in good shape, they’ve looked after themselves over the winter, and they should be ok.”
“This is a race with riders of very different levels [of form], there are riders who are going really well now and others who are looking to be in shape much later, so you can slot in somewhere here.”
“Yesterday [Sunday] was the first time I’d seen them since they came over from the States - where they’ve been training, either at home or in California - and they’re come back into the team fine.”
If Catalunya is a tough race to start off with, there may well be a top position for the three to defend: Garmin-Sharp’s Dan Martin is a potential contender for the overall victory, and already has two podium finishes in Catalunya.
“We’ll do our best with him, with no time trial, that’s definitely a plus for Dan,” Fernández said. “But this race suits him in any case.”
With two hard days in the Pyrenees, Fernández believes that “On the Wednesday [summit finish] we’ll see who’s going well and who’s not and then on Thursday [summit finish] the race will be pretty much decided.” The Volta finishes on Sunday March 24th, in Barcelona.