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Tour de France

Danielson completes difficult Tour, with dinosaur in tow

The American suffered for most of the race following a crash in stage 5

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PARIS (VN) — 3,404 kilometers. From Corsica, across France, and back again. A long way to ride for a little triceratops.

But there he’s been, sitting on top of Tom Danielson’s bike, with a front row view of the whole Tour de France.

Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) came to the Tour with big hopes — after an early exit from last year’s race, he believed he had once again found the form that carried him to eighth place in 2011 — and a little toy dinosaur, a parting gift from his 3-year-old son, Steven, glued to his bike for good luck.

But in a rough and tumble Tour from which few riders escaped completely unscathed, Danielson’s luck once again failed him. The 35-year-old went down hard in the massive pileup at the finish of stage 5 in Marseille, tearing his left calf, an injury that left him limping through much of the remainder of the race.

“You know, it’s been a different Tour for me,” said Danielson a day before the Tour’s finish. “You know, I came in here with really good form, and had a bad crash on stage 5 … That really changed my whole world.”

Instead of racing to the mountaintops with the GC favorites, Danielson found himself playing the role of a domestique for the first time ever at the Tour, assisting Garmin’s young star Andrew Talansky and pedaling in the grupetto as he tried to rest his injured leg. On Sunday, he rolled onto the Champs-Élysées in 60th place overall, more than two hours back. He told VeloNews that he has tried to take the philosophical view of his disappointing Tour.

“That’s the name of the game, and it’s different every year,” he said. “The Tour is especially different, because so many guys come in with the ability to ride top five or top 10, and then they have to change the whole thing and just go with it. But that’s the Tour de France.”

And, even in disappointment, Danielson has found satisfaction in assisting teammates Talansky, who rode his way into the top 10 overall in the Alps, and Dan Martin, who won a stage in the Pyrénées.

He also rode in his first ever breakaway on the Tour’s queen stage, making two ascents of l’Alpe d’Huez at the front of the race. But his group was swept up by the GC leaders during their second climb.

“I started to feel pretty good the last few days, got in the breakaway that one day,” he said. “But, like I said, I’ve been going easy the whole race and my body was just screwed up. It just wasn’t ready to go full on, you know? The engine just couldn’t go. So it sucked, because that was a really great opportunity for me, but I had to take it with a grain of salt.”

Now Danielson — and his little dinosaur — heads for home, hoping to put a difficult Tour, part of an often difficult 2013 campaign, behind him. There were glimmers of the old Danielson and the steady grand tour GC rider he was two years ago in his fourth-place performance at the Tour of Romandie, but he battled illness at the Giro d’Italia and battled injury here in France. He said that, good or bad, his year has left him confident of a good showing ahead of two big stage races at home in the United States.

“Looking at it positively, I’ve done the Giro, got through that, was sick and then after that, did the Tour,” he said. “I had great results in the beginning of the year, two top 10s in Romandie, so I’m happy. And with Colorado and Utah on the horizon, I’m motivated.”