Garmin-Cervélo’s Tom Danielson put in an impressive ride on Sierra Road Wednesday, finishing fifth on the summit finish to move into third overall, behind RadioShack’s Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer. He’s now the top rider from a team that has five riders in the top 12 overall, including Christian Vande Velde, Ryder Hesjedal, Andrew Talansky and Dan Martin.
Outside the Garmin team bus, Danielson fielded questions from VeloNews and other news outlets.
Q: How were the legs today?
A: Really good. I’ll be honest, I always have a demon with Sierra Road, I’ve never had a good one until today. I was a little worried about it. I was super nervous about what was going to happen. In the past Tours of California, I’ve come in with good form and I’ve always gotten dropped every year on Sierra Road. Today I felt awesome, but when those guys went, Horner was unbelievable, as we all expected. Sierra Road is perfect for him. He was always able to go up it with Levi, even with no form and 20 pounds overweight, so now when he is super-skinny and on exceptional form, he goes up really fast. I was just happy to get up there and still be in the hint. Horner’s got a lot of time, but Mount Baldy is a whole different beast. It’s like a Mount Evans, with a Brasstown Bald on top. I’m excited for that, and I’ll give it my everything.
Q: What was the dynamic in the group with Andy Schleck, Levi Leipheimer and Rory Sutherland?
A: We didn’t really work, and that was the problem. We would pull a little bit, and then those guys would jump. Tejay (van Garderen) did a lot of work at the bottom, and that’s part of how Horner got that giant gap. Obviously he had good legs, but also there was a lack of cooperation behind. There was a little bit of a crosswind, so when one guy would pull, he’d go all the way to the side of the road, and everyone was in the gutter doing the same thing. That’s just the way it is on a climb like that. Levi was really strong, Horner was unbelievable, and my teammates Christian and Ryder were also looking good. I was also surprised to see Andy Schleck there, only because last year he came to this race in a bit different condition. We’ll have to watch him now.
Q: Why were you better on Sierra this year than in other years?
A: I was just really motivated. I have good shape. I’d like to go for the overall at this Tour of California. No one mentioned me as a favorite for this race, but I’d like to do a good one and change that. I’m feeling really good, and I’ll do my best.
Q: Isn’t the Tour of Colorado your target race for the year?
A: Yeah, I’d like to have a good Tour of Colorado, but first is the Tour of California, and I’d really like to go to the Tour de France for the first time. I’ve got a lot to prove here. I’ll do my best and give everything for my family, my fans and my team.
Q: Clearly Chris Horner is the strongest climber in this race, and he’s now got significant time on everyone else. How is that going to affect the GC battle on the Baldy climb?
A: It’s going to be interesting because Levi is super strong, and the guys that are just behind will have to put everything on the line on Baldy. We have a really strong team, and chasing on the Baldy stage will be different than chasing today. You put some of these guys in the break, guys like Dan Martin, RadioShack is going to be chasing uphill, and that’s a lot different than chasing on the flat. We saw today that they were really strong, but you saw on the climb that they had to use Matt Busche, and I would assume that Levi will have to ride (for Horner) on Mount Baldy. At least we hope so. Baldy is really hard, and one minute could be nothing on Baldy. But let’s first get through stage 5 and the time trial, and see what happens.
Q: You’ve ridden as teammates with both Levi and Horner. You know their personalities. Is it really possible that they can coexist as teammates without a rivalry over team leadership?
A: We saw today what happened. Levi did not chase Horner. In fact Horner was actually working for Levi in the beginning. He caused the gap when those two went away and went up to Ryder. Horner pulled the whole way, and when he got to Ryder, he just kept going, and Levi sat on Ryder, and boom, that was it. Levi set that up for Horner perfectly. Levi is a professional, he loves this race, and he’ll do well, but if Horner’s the strongest guy, he’ll work for him for sure.