By Andrew Hood
Tom Danielson expressed satisfaction with the opening salvo of the 2006 Vuelta a España. Discovery Channel finished a solid fourth place, nine seconds behind winners Team CSC, which was good enough for Danielson in his first stage as an outright team leader in his European career. VeloNews.com caught up with him after the stage:
VeloNews.com: An interesting first stage of the Vuelta. How did things go for you in the team time trial?
Tom Danielson: I think it was exciting and we posted a good time. It was challenging. As you could see from the mistakes the team made, Team CSC was just so strong and experienced. They had O’Grady and Cancellara, who are really good in the discipline. We were the big-time underdogs and I think we put in a good performance. If you take away the mistakes we made, I think we could have come in second.
VN.com: You were one second behind Milram at the first split. What mistakes did you make?
TD: We weren’t that smooth at the start, and the first left-hander we kind of got bottle-necked, got split, and it took a little bit to get back together. There was a little confusion on the rotation. We started the wrong way and then had to get going the other. Then there was a policeman in the road who wasn’t there in warm-up, so we all hit the brakes and we had a big hesitation there. When something is there that wasn’t there when you preview the course it changes your rhythm.
VN.com: Despite that, fourth-best isn’t bad. You must be satisfied with that.
TD: I’m happy. The boys rode the best they could. It’s an event that guys with a little track experience are simply better at staying together. We don’t have a team here for the team time trial, we have a team here for the mountains and we have a few guys who will be strong in the flats. All in all, I think we did a great ride.
VN.com: What are your general impressions about finally getting started?
TD: It’s always nice to get under way. It’s always a nice test to be in the race. You don’t really know. I felt good in training. I felt very strong today, and I didn’t suffer as much as I thought I would.
VN.com: Up next are a string of relatively flat stages. So what’s the plan, other than staying out of trouble?
TD: That’s one plan, but we all know racing is racing and there are so many things that can happen. A stage might look flat and basic, but I am not going to sleep tonight thinking it’s going to be like that. I need to be ready for the team and if there’s an opportunity, we’re going to take it. We’re the underdogs, but we’re strong underdogs. We’re going to race this race as if we can make a good GC.
VN.com: So the team won’t be sitting back waiting for the action?
TD: We’re not coming to this race and just do whatever. We’re going to make the race as much as we can. I think we can play a big part in this race. We have one objective, but we also have some very good riders. If that one objective is going smoothly, then why not expand it a little bit? Maybe we can put some guys in some breaks. But if we’re going to do this, let’s do it right.
VN.com: How did your final preparation for the Vuelta go? No crashes or illnesses?
TD: No. I’ve managed to avoid them. After the Giro, I’ve been super paranoid about getting sick. It’s more of a challenge than people think. When you start racing, you feel strong, but that’s when you stop washing your hands before eating. That’s when you start shaking hands with someone and then having something to eat. I am going to try to not get sleepy on the job and stay focused on staying healthy.