By Jean-François Quénet in Maurs-la-Jolie
Tom Danielson discovered Paris-Nice two years when he joined Discovery Channel following an unsuccessful European experience with Fassa Bortolo. Lance Armstrong made him his successor after the former mountain biker won the Tour de Langkawi in 2003 in a brilliant manner. This became more clear after Armstrong 'the boss' designated Brasstown Bald Mountain stage winner Danielson rather than Floyd Landis, who had moved to Phonak in 2005.
27 year-old Danielson, who started racing with the American teams Mercury and Saturn, hasn't met all expectations yet, but a stage win and a seventh position overall at last year's Tour of Spain show him making some progress upward through the hierarchy of cycling.
After three stages in Paris-Nice, he was in 56th place on the GC, 34 seconds down, but he lost 17 seconds in Limoges. "Alberto Contador and myself were well positioned in the downhill preceding the difficult finish in town, he explained. But a Française des Jeux rider crashed [actually, it was Ag2r's Samuel Dumoulin - ed.] in front of us. We got stacked behind and we could never see the front of the bunch; that's how we missed the split."
Paris-Nice is usually a race where every second counts. This incident might have a serious influence on the final result of the Discovery Channel team at the end. "Personally, I don't know the state of my form really; we'll see in the big hills," Danielson said. "I came in the 2007 season in a very good condition. I did a lot of work for Levi [Leipheimer] at the Tour of California. There are a couple of good stages in Paris-Nice. Levi and Contador are the guys who have the best form and ambitions for GC."
2007 is an important year in Danielson's career. "I'll do the Tour of Georgia, the Tour of Catalunya, and the Dauphiné before my debut in the Tour de France," he announced. The arrival of a new American hero may be like a breath of fresh air at the Tour de France.