By Shane Stokes
Having spent recent months trying to get back to his top form, Garmin-Chipotle rider Tom Danielson is hoping for a strong ride in this Saturday's Giro di Lombardia.
The 30 year-old has had a tough run of things since winning a stage in the 2006 Vuelta a España, with injury and illness preventing him from building upon that achievement. However, he's been working hard in racing and training of late and knows that a good showing in the Italian Classic would boost his morale prior to the start of his off-season training.
"I've been training in the mountains at my home in Puigcerda, Spain, between doing some flat, crosswind 'quawk-fest' races such as Poitou-Charentes and Paris-Tours," he told Cyclingnews on Wednesday. "I guess you can say in one month I've gotten in everything from a time trial and pulling on the front like crazy in Missouri, to attacking endlessly at USPRO, to banging handlebars in crosswinds in France, to riding up giant mountains near my home in the Pyrenees, and finally to looking after my good friend Tyler Farrar in Paris-Tours. I also just got married to my girlfriend Stephanie in September, so it's been an exciting fall for me!"
Danielson's season results include 15th in the general classification in the Tour du Poitou-Charentes, fifth in the US time trial championship, sixth in the road race event and fifth overall in the Tour of Missouri. He was also eighth on stage three of the same race. Those are solid results, but his enforced time off the bike means that he still hasn't regained his old Vuelta-stage winning condition.
However, Danielson felt that his hard work is paying off. "My form has been improving nicely each week," he stated. "This year has been very testing for me and I am happy to have put everything back together. The big thing has just been fine-tuning my confidence. After being off the bike so long, it was hard to actually believe that in the races I could be there with the best. The nationals time trial was really where everything clicked again for me. After that my confidence is coming back and I am able to drive myself with the throttle wide open again."
One benefit of the way his season has panned out - he wasn't selected for the Tour de France, his big season goal - is that his reserves are still good. While many other riders are simply going through the motions, waiting for the end of the season and the chance to hang up their racing wheels for a while, he's mentally fresh. That's helped him maintain focus for the upcoming Italian Classic.
The thoughts of showing well there fire him up. "Lombardia is a race that I have always wanted to do," he said. "It's a beautiful Classic that has been a big part of cycling's history. Some great riders have won this race and its about time for me to see what its all about.
"My team has faith in me that I can do a good result here, and I would really love to do so. What is a good result? Well, in my opinion that would be leaving it all out there and riding at the highest level possible for me. If I do that, then I will be there with the best."
Danielson said that many riders will be in contention in the tough 242 kilometre event, but has two in mind. "I think there are many guys to watch on Saturday. I think Cunego and Sanchez are the favourites. Both can climb very well, both excel in one-day races, and both can sprint better then most out there. Of course, this is cycling, and it's very unpredictable. Who knows, maybe [Dave] Zabriskie will throw on the skin suit and ride away from everyone!"
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