By Kirsten Robbins
Fans of the Tour de Georgia have been waiting all week for the Brasstown Bald battle between Floyd Landis and Tom Danielson. It was the most anticipated stage of the 2006 Tour de Georgia. After winning the stage, but failing to knock Phonak's Floyd Landis off the top of the general classification listing, Discovery Channel rider tom Danielson spoke about the stage and the race overall.
"Losing this jersey by four seconds to me is not a loss," said Danielson. "I am very satisfied with that. Second in the time trial and a stage win today - I am happy with that.
"For sure today we had a very strong team and we were ready to do a great climb," said Danielson. "My perspective is that we under-estimated how strong Floyd is. We had such a great team that at one point there were three of us left on the climb, and one of him."
Danielson explains the strength Team Discovery displayed coming into Brasstown Bald. "The team did an amazing job keeping the pace really high going into the climb. The difference between this year and last year is that last year I attacked at the bottom. This year I put all my cards on the very end of the Brasstown climb but Floyd was very strong today."
The battle between Danielson and Landis was almost uninterrupted until Danielson's Discovery teammate Popovych came blowing through. The crowds went crazy watching Popovych fly through the stare-down between the two Brasstown favorites. "A couple of times before [that] we came to a track-stand, balancing our bikes on the road," said Danielson. "We were waiting for our tactical maneuvers and it was like a chess match this year. It was a very exciting race all the way to the end. I think that Floyd was strong and we did the best ride we could."
Danielson describes that tactics behind the last leg to the finish as being very cautious. "We both respect each other a lot. He knows what I am doing and I know what he is doing. So, in the end I was waiting for Popovich and Landis was not pedaling but then again, why should he pedal when he is in the leader's jersey? Then I stopped because what could I do? There was a head wind and it didn't make sense for me to pull the whole way to the line. So, we were working on balancing our bikes in the road."
Many questions have been asked about the similarities and differences between racing in the U.S. versus Europe. Danielson view was that, "The climbing here is similar to the climbing in Europe. Today's stage is similar to what you would see in the Giro d'Italia. There are smaller roads and lots of turns with undulating terrain. Today's climb was five kilometers steep but in the Giro the climbs are twenty kilometers long and just as steep. The weather is similar too, lots of rain today!"
The Tour de Georgia has found one rider who stands out as being the strongest and most reliable domestique: Discovery rider Jason McCartney. "There are no words for how Jason McCartney has been riding this week," said Danielson. "Jason is incredible. I mean yesterday in the breakaway - he was the breakaway - and today he was in the breakaway again and when he came back he was still pulling at the end."
Danielson added that, "people don't know this but [McCartney] has been sick this week. On stage two he had to stop at the side of the road and was totally out of the race because he was sick. The ambulance and everyone had gone by and he chased himself back into the race on the finishing circuits. Then he did the time trial and got top ten, then in the break yesterday and again today. The guy is incredible."
The team will be heading to contend in the Giro d'Italia in ten days time, Danielson wishes McCartney the ride of his life. "The guy has no idea how strong he is and I am looking forward to seeing him perform in the Giro next month and see if maybe he can win a stage, do something really special in the mountains and just have a great ride."
As the press conference on Brasstown Bald came to a close Danielson described his feelings on his performance. "I am very happy with my time trail. As far as my performance today - I am very happy with my performance. Perhaps I did not tactically assess the situation my best. I was a bit conservative and it ended up being harder for me. Like I said a couple of days ago; Floyd is one of the best riders in the world and to be up there with him is a very special thing for me. In two years I hope I am in the grand tours and I feel like I am making progress in that direction."