Jonathan Vaughters has admitted that Tom Danielson was always Garmin-Cervelo’s best bet for a strong GC performance coming into this year’s Tour de France. Until today’s first mountain stage Vaughters had publicly stated that the team had three riders able to challenge for a top ten placing, with Ryder Hesjedal and Christian Vande Valde also in contention.
However, Danielson looked to be Vaughters’ true leader after Hesjedal crashed and injured his back earlier race and Vande Velde was deployed as a domestique deluxe for Danielson on stage 9.
"He was our GC rider from the start of the Tour de France. I just didn’t tell anyone that," Vaughers told Cyclingnews at the finish in Luz-Ardiden, after Danielson matched the likes of Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans and the Schleck brothers for most of the stage. The American climber finished the stage in 11th and now sits 9th overall.
"Tom is an immensely talented rider but doesn’t necessarily deal well with having a bunch of media attention," Vaughters said when asked why he’d chosen to shield Danielson from the media spotlight. "When Robbie Ketchel and I were discussing all the riders coming into the Tour de France we felt that Tom was our best chance at a good classification ride."
Vaughters has always been a strong supporter of Danielson’s talent on the bike, telling Cyclingnews back in 2010 that the former Discovery rider had the physiology to do very well in the Tour de France.
That claim looked more credible after Danielson finished in the top ten at last year’s Vuelta but this season he has improved significantly, taking 3rd in the Amgen Tour of California and 9th in the Tour de Suisse.
"He has the physiology to win a Tour de France but now we’re finding out that he has the psychology to be up there as well. He’s made a lot of changes [to his mental preparation] for the better. He has learnt how to deal with pressure very well like he did in last year’s Vuelta," Vaughters said.
"I think he’s going to do a great Tour de France. I’m not going to call it until it’s over though because it’s a long hard race but he’s done great so far. He dealt with the pressure today. I think he’ll be one of the better guys in the race."
Vaughters main challenge will be to keep Danielson focused on the race but most importantly in a positive state of mind. The fact that he rooms with Vande Velde, a laid back character who has experienced a top four finish in the Tour should certainly help.
"With him the important part is that he’s calm and collected and happy every day. If he’s those things Tom is always in form."
Perhaps as a further sign of the American’s confidence - at the end of today’s first mountain stage Danielson made what was a rare appearance in front of the press.
"I felt really within myself but the key for me is to be steady everyday and when I have an opportunity to take it. I’m stoked to be in the front and to do it for my family and my teammates. If I can attack I will but today I just wanted to prove to myself that I can be with the best guys in the Tour."