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Tour de France

Danielson grits out a long day on infirmary row

American Tom Danielson describes the moment he knew his separated "shoulder was wrecked," and fights to stay in the Tour on stage 4

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ROUEN, France (VN) — American Tom Danielson rolled across the finish line in Rouen Thursday afternoon, his face drawn and his right arm draped from his shoulder. Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) came into this Tour de France with high hopes after a top 10 showing in 2011. Now, after a stage 3 crash, he just hopes to finish the race.

“It was really painful,” Danielson said at the finish in Rouen. “It feels like someone is sawing my arm off. I’m really not racing my bike out there. I’m just riding. It feels like I just want to put myself out of my misery.”

Danielson rode Wednesday’s 214.5km stage from Abbeville to Rouen with a separated shoulder that doctors patched together with kineseotape. He was but one of several Garmin-Sharp riders to crash during Tuesday’s day of reckoning, which saw several incidents in the race’s final hour on narrow roads with short climbs on the first day in France.

Danielson finished nine minutes back that day, his general classification hopes dashed and Garmin’s wildcard used up, his arm limp from his shoulder.

He hoped to push on, gambling that his shoulder would progressively get better.

“Then I can maybe try to do a good stage or something. But right now that just seems completely unrealistic,” he said. “It’s just hope for a miracle and keep pushing on.”

Robby Ketchell, Garmin’s director of sports science, said he thought Danielson would recover. “It’s something you have to take day-by-day and assess what the injury is and what the pain level is. I think he’s going to feel better in the next few days,” Ketchell said.

The Garmin losses are but a scale drawing of the savage nature of bike racing: an entire season revolves around one race in some cases, but luck doesn’t seem to notice preparations in its selections.

“It’s so strange. You don’t ever want to envision this sort of thing happening,” Danielson said before taking the start Wednesday. “That’s the tough thing about this sport. We work so hard just to get to the start line in a position to be a contender in the race, and then you have stuff like this… you just have to rethink it and evaluate. And now my goals are different.”

Those goals will surely include ferrying Ryder Hesjedal in the mountains, who was the only one of Garmin’s big GC three to not lose time yesterday, as American Christian Vande Velde parted with 2:08 due to a crash, and now sits 2:29 behind leader Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan), in 58th position.

A rider went down in front of Danielson, who he was able to avoid, but he was then smashed into from behind. “I just went over the handlebars and landed straight on my shoulder,” he said. He popped up, knowing only that his shoulder felt “numb and really strange.”

“You work all year for the Tour de France and your form’s good, so you don’t think anything of it. You just straighten your handlebars and go. My derailleur was broken as well, but I just kept going.”

Danielson came to a hill and went to pull on the bars, but couldn’t.

“I couldn’t pull with my arm, and I had to slow down a little bit. Then my derailleur ripped off into my spokes. So I just sat on the side of the road and waited for a bike. At that point I knew my shoulder was wrecked. I just did everything I could to get to the finish line.”

And he did get to the finish, just too far in arrears to factor into the final GC.

Tactically, this changes things for Garmin. Team boss Jonathan Vaughters said he hoped to wreak havoc on this Tour de France, though it seems that havoc reached Garmin first. Now, the team will rally behind Hesjedal, and Danielson is hoping to be there.

Danielson found himself surviving stage 4 on infirmary row, with Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Luis León Sánchez (Rabobank), both crash victims themselves in stage 1.

“It’s pretty miserable back there,’ Danielson said, clearly in pain at the finish. “You’re not racing for anything. You’re just trying to survive.”

He will try to survive another day tomorrow.