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BOULDER, Colo. (VN) — Tom Danielson broke through a glass ceiling at the Tour de France in 2011 and will return to the Tour de Langkawi in 2012 looking to recapture the taste for winning that he said he lacked in recent years.
At 33 years old, Danielson (Garmin-Cervélo) is searching for the killer instinct that made him the one-time protégé of Lance Armstrong at Discovery Channel. After a run of bad luck in recent years, he is coming off of the best season of his 11-year career, during which he finished ninth in his first Tour de France and landed on the final podium of the Amgen Tour of California.
“I want to learn how to be that killer, that winner again,” Danielson told VeloNews.
Danielson said it was in California in May that things began clicking for him like they hadn’t since 2007.
“It came together for me mentally and once it clicked for me I realized that I really enjoy being on the podium and in the race, not behind the race,” said Danielson. “From that point on I just really viewed what I was doing from a different perspective, in a different light, and every time I went training I did it with a purpose and a goal I could achieve through hard work.”
That training carried Danielson through to ninth at the Tour de Suisse in June and into his first Tour de France. There, Danielson fought back from losing time in the first week to ride with the overall contenders in the mountains and lead Garmin’s team classification win in Paris.
“I definitely broke through a glass ceiling,” said Danielson. “I’ve been looking at it my entire career, trying to find ways up the ladder every route possible, and couldn’t quite get there.”
Danielson struggled with a run of stomach ailments and crashes in recent seasons. He arrived in July, however, and, having thrice finished top-10 in the Vuelta a España, said his Tour top-10 was a new level.
“Top 10 in the Tour is a bit different; the race is like 21 world championships all together and then the 10 guys that are best at the end of that are pretty much like 10 individual winners of other grand tours,” he said. “You see how easy it would be to lose that position because there are so many guys breathing down your neck, trying to take it everyday.
“For me, a top-10 finish in the Tour de France is like winning a really big race.”
Danielson initially broke through in 2003 with his overall win with Saturn at the Tour de Langkawi. He joined the top-level of the sport the next year with Fassa Bortolo before a three-year stint at Discovery Channel. He will return to Malaysia in February to contest Langkawi, which adds a time trial to complement the Genting Highlands summit finish, and hopes to recapture that winning sharpness.
“I lost it constantly analyzing data,” said Danielson. “I want to go back to get that feeling back from 2003.”
Danielson said he turned his focus to the 2012 Tour de France on his way to the team hotel after the stage 21 finish in Paris in July and that the route revealed last month suits him well with more emphasis on time trial kilometers than this year’s parcours.
“As soon as I finished that race, I knew that race suits me well. It’s hard, it’s totally different than all the other races,” he said. “I’ve been really G’ed up for it. I’ve learned a lot and am really excited to apply it next year and work toward a higher finish than 2011.”