Tom Danielson showed that he is on target for next month's Amgen Tour of California with a strong performance in the SRAM Tour of the Gila on Wednesday.
The Garmin-Transitions rider, taking part in the national event under the DZ Nuts team, claimed second place, a mere 10 seconds behind stage winner Levi Leipheimer on the notoriously steep finishing 10-kilometre long ascent to Mogollon.
Danielson hopes to put forth an equally strong performance is Friday's stage three time trial and keep his place in the overall classification.
"For me it's important to prove to myself, that I can be up there with those guys and I proved that today," Tom Danielson told Cyclingnews. "I hope to have a really good time trial in a couple of days."
"I would really like to give the overall a shot, I'd be a fool not to," he added. "I've done quite a few months here is Silver City with Team Garmin-Slipstream, every year we've had a big training camp."
Friday's stage three Dan Potts Memorial Tyrone Individual Time Trial is sure to shake up the overall with a 25-km grueling out and back race against the clock. Last year Leipheimer increased his lead in the overall classification by winning the event in a time of 32.59.
"I've done a lot of time trial training this month and I hope to improve it," Danielson said. "We will see because Levi is one of the best in the world and he's a great indicator to see where we are at. I just keep working hard and worrying about myself and how good I can go and hopefully be ready for the Tour of California."
Garmin-Transitions have three riders participating in the race this week as a tune-up for the Amgen Tour. Dave Zabriskie, Tom Danielson and Tom Peterson are represented under Zabriskie's company DZ Nuts as they are prevented by UCI rules from participating in a national event under their ProTour team.
"It's fantastic because it really sharpens you up," Danielson said. "It's a race that is quite specific to the areas we need to be good at in the Tour of California with short climbs like today. Today the Mogollon was pretty similar to the Bonny Doon stage and then the Big Bear stage will be quite similar to the Gila Monster. The time trial is relatively similar to the time trial at the Tour of California."
"Really, those are the key stages of the Tour of California and here is a great event to really prepare for it," he added. "It's also not too taxing on the system, whereas a race like Paris-Nice, you come out of it mentally destroyed and you don't want to ride your bike for a month. You come out of this race happy, with some good sun and some good weather, hopefully keeping the rubber-side up and having a good time."
Danielson last competed in the SRAM Tour of the Gila in 2002 under the team Sobe-Cannondale. When asked if this race brings back fond memories of racing in the domestic US scene, he said, "Absolutely, I came here with my coach Rick Crawford and it was him and I in 2002, in the same hotel too and we are here again. It gives me great memories."