Tom Danielson has been struggling to find his form over the last few years and the 29 year-old American admitted that when things continued to go so poorly this season he was worried not just for his career but for his life. Extensive testing has diagnosed his troubles as Giardia and, fortunately, he almost immediately he started feeling better.
"I was scared. I was scared for my health. I was scared for my career," he said in an interview with Colorado's Durango Herald. "I didn't know what was going on."
Danielson had been having stomach problems since 2004, and even repeated visits to various emergency rooms were unable to pinpoint the problem. "It was really frustrating, to be sick and not be able to train. I mean, I got so sick that I thought I was going to die or something. The symptoms for what I had ranged from a parasite or something like this all the way to cancer."
He had been scheduled to ride the Tour de France this year but that was no longer a possibility. "At that point, not going to the Tour was OK with me because I couldn't even ride my bike."
After returning from Spain to his home in Durango, he sought out his friend and doctor Patrick Gerstenberger who carefully went through Danielson's history and spent a lot of time with the cyclist.
The ultimate diagnosis was Giardia, an intestinal illness caused by a microscopic parasite. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, "Normally illness lasts for one to two weeks, but there are cases of chronic infections lasting months to years." The latter seems to apply to Danielson. He apparently picked the bug up when he won the Tour of Langkawi in Malaysia in 2003. "From when I did Malaysia back in '03, from then on we've kind of had this documented history of these weird symptoms," he said.
Putting a name to the problems seems to have helped. Only a month after the diagnosis, Danielson won the Mount Evans Hill Climb. "From two days, three days, I went from not being able to ride my bike 15 miles per hour - I really couldn't go any faster - to feeling the best I've had in my life."
He has now returned to his season headquarters in Spain where he will take on the second half of the season, starting with the Clásica San Sebastián on Saturday. His new season highlight will now be the Vuelta a España in September, a race in which he finished sixth overall in 2006 and seventh in 2005.