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Nine North American riders to watch in this year’s Tour de France

Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp)

Boulder, Colorado
With his second consecutive podium in the Amgen Tour of California and seventh overall at the Tour de Suisse, Tom Danielson is on the rise after an early season derailed by a hard crash at the Tour de Langkawi.

His eighth place finish in last year’s Tour — his first — showed that the 34-year-old still has what it takes to perform at the top. He was Garmin’s highest-placed GC rider in a dream Tour that included a week in yellow and two stage wins for Thor Hushovd, a team time trial win, a July 4th stage win for Tyler Farrar and top spot in the teams classification.

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The former collegiate mountain bike champion never did live up to the impossible expectations that he would inherit Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France crown, but he has in recent years been a solid performer for his Garmin team in the mountains nonetheless. Danielson, one of the affable riders in the peloton, has been dogged by comments on whether he possesses the killer instinct to find a grand tour podium. He was in contention at the 2009 Vuelta a España when his stomach turned bad and he dropped from the front of the race. This happened again in 2011 at the USA Pro Challenge in August, but a month earlier, Danielson rode well throughout the entire Tour, save for his stage 1 time loss in the wind and crashes. He’s worked on those instincts in 2012 and nearly reaped the rewards at the Amgen Tour — until Robert Gesink (Rabobank) blew everyone away on Mount Baldy.

With Ryder Hesjedal and Christian Vande Velde taking top billing as the team’s proclaimed GC leaders at the Tour, look for Danielson to feature as a strong helper in the mountains as his team looks for its best-ever showing in this year’s Tour. But, like Vande Velde, Danielson could break out if he sees the opportunity — and has the stomach for it.

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