Motivated by a strong performance in the Vuelta a Burgos, Garmin Slipstream's Tom Danielson is now focussed on fine-tuning his form in advance of the Vuelta a España. The 31-year-old proved he was back to strong form when he won Saturday’s time trial in the 2.HC Spanish event, beating team-mate Danny Pate by ten seconds.
It was his first major victory since winning a stage of the 2006 Vuelta a España in Granada and earned him the race leader’s jersey. He ultimately finished third overall after Sunday’s summit finish to Lagunas de Neila but rather than rueing what might have been, he heads away from the race focussed firmly on the positives.
"Going into the race I knew I was in condition and in the right frame of mind to perform well. However I did not expect that to be a stage win and on the podium in the overall," he told Cyclingnews.
Danielson finished the race twelve seconds behind Valverde, having lost 13 seconds to the Spaniard on the steep ramp to the finish on stage two. He is philosophical about this, saying that he learned from the experience and that his final finishing position has made him hungry for more.
"I think I made some mistakes on the last day and in the beginning of the race I lost some time here and there," he said. "But in the long run I think it was good that I made the mistakes and leave the race hungry. I am really satisfied, really happy. It is a great result and a great confirmation, but at the same time it is good to continuously learn. To have some things in the back of my mind so when I cross those paths in the future, I know how to react.”
Garmin Slipstream team boss Jonathan Vaughters was delighted with Danielson’s return to form. “Sometimes being patient with people plays off,” he said on Twitter immediately after the time trial victory. He further expanded on this on Monday. “I'm very happy Tom is having fun racing again,” he told Cyclingnews. “It’s very nice to see. He's a very intelligent and kind person, so it’s been hard watching him struggle.”
As Danielson told Cyclingnews in July 2008, he had re-occurrent stomach problems which affected his racing at times and which were finally narrowed down to the effects of intestinal parasites. This was successfully treated but then he shattered his shoulder and suffered a herniated disk while riding the 2007 Vuelta with the Discovery Channel team.
Recovering from this took quite a bit of time, and his comeback to the top level was further delayed when the Giardia parasite returned earlier this season.
“He’s been going through all kinds of stuff," Vaughters explained. "To start with, he'd always had trouble getting hunger flats in long races, so he started eating more and more to prevent this. Then he started gaining weight. We had to totally restructure his diet to get him to use fats instead of sugar for fuel.
"All of this really crushed his confidence. Tom's a very sensitive person, psychologically, so he had to really retrain his mind after all the downtime he's had the last few years."
Danielson is now firmly back on track and building towards the Vuelta a España. He doesn’t want to make predictions or name targets, saying that his goal is to get into the best shape possible and see how things go. Vaughters echoes this approach, saying that he and team-mate Daniel Martin will head to the Vuelta on an equal footing and let things unfold from there.
"I think the race will show us who is strong," he stated. "We aren’t big race favorites for the Vuelta, so we can afford to play both options [Danielson and Martin]. Both of these guys are wildcards for the Vuelta, one because he's young, and the other because it’s been a while since he's been at the top level. So, we'll take care of them in Holland and then go from there."