Tour of Utah peloton surprised, disappointed in Danielson news

Reaction to news that Tom Danielson (Cannondale-Garmin) tested positive in an out-of-competition test in July coursed through the team parking lot before the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah rolled out of Logan Monday morning, with the majority of riders expressing surprise, disappointment and a hesitance to go on the record.

Danielson teammate Alex Howes finished second on the stage and attended the post-race press conference. Despite an admonition from the race organisation not to ask about riders who weren’t present, Howes was asked about team morale this morning after getting the news Sunday night.

“We’re here in Utah to race, and I think we showed that today,” Howes said. “You get bad news and obviously morale is not amazing. But we’re here to do a job and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Optum Pro Cycling’s Phil Gaimon, who recently wrote an article for Cyclingnews about what it means to be a clean rider, was one of the riders who didn’t want to comment about Danielson, whom he considers a friend. An obviously shaken Gaimon simply told Cyclingnews before the stage that his worldview had been shattered.

Chris Horner, the Airgas-Safeway rider who finished second to Danielson the past two years in Utah and who is no stranger to doping accusations himself, told Cyclingnews he wanted to wait to comment until all the facts are out.

“In terms of Danielson himself, I don’t have a comment because it just came out last night,” Horner said. “ Of course every rider is going to have to wait and see how the B sample goes and all that kind of stuff.”

Horner did say Danielson’s absence from the race would change the dynamics dramatically.

“Going into the race Danielson was the favourite, so if Danielson’s not here it’s going to put more pressure on my team and more pressure on Trek and stuff like that,” he said. “Garmin was the team to watch and the team to control the race all the way to the last two stages, and now they’re not here. So I think it’s going to be Frank Schleck and myself as the favourites.”

Ben Jacques-Maynes, who has been an outspoken critic of the doping culture in cycling’s top tier, expressed disappointment tinged with a little anger.

“I mean what can you say?” Jacques-Maynes said. “The guy's already been caught once, and now again. I don’t know why this crap is still going on. He and I started professional cycling the same year in 2002. You can see the trajectory that his career has taken compared to mine. I guess maybe this is why.

“It’s just disappointing that this is the way guys handle their business in this day and age,” Jacques-Maynes said. “So many guys are wanting to get away from that now. I’ve always done that in my career: ride clean and hold my head up high. Everything I’ve done I can point to. Maybe he can learn a lesson from that.

Team SmartStop director Mike Creed, who was a teammate with Danielson in 2005 on Discovery Channel, also said he was still processing the news.

“I just found out about it this morning like everybody else,” he said. “I’m pretty ignorant to what it could be. He’s convinced it could be a supplement, so we’ll just wait and see. I find it hard to believe that somebody would do that after everything.”

Creed did agree with Horner that the race would unfold completely differently without the defending champion on the start line.

“I think last night in the meeting I told the team that the only one here that has a clear agenda is Garmin,” he said. “And now that went away, so I think today will be a real shit fight. These guys are lucky it’s not hot today, because the amount of teams that want to take control.”

Although many riders chose not to comment on the record, some of them expressed themselves on Twitter. Below is a brief sampling:

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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.