By Andrew Hood
Tom Danielson, weakened by fever and sinus problems, ended his Giro d’Italia just two days shy of finishing but Discovery Channel officials revealed that he’ll reload for the Vuelta a España as the team’s GC rider.
Danielson, who was sitting 16th overall at 23:24 back, didn’t start Saturday’s 20th climbing stage over the Gavia and Mortirolo when his conditioned worsened overnight Friday and team sport director Johan Bruyneel decided to pull the plug on his Giro.
“He’d been suffering from sinusitis and taking antibiotics ever since the stage to La Thuile last week,” Bruyneel told VeloNews. “Then, yesterday, he felt bad throughout the stage. He really wanted to be there for Paolo and actually did a super climb considering his condition, but when he got to the hotel after the stage he looked really bad. You could see that he’d gone over the limit. Then, after dinner, he started getting fever and we decided this morning that it wouldn’t make sense for him to start, especially a stage like today’s. He’s given everything he could and he was completely empty.”
Danielson, 28, was sitting solidly in the top 10 until the festering health problems sapped his strength as the Giro turned into the torturous final week of epic climbing stages.
Danielson pulled out of last year’s Giro with knee problems, but went on to finish eighth overall in the Vuelta a España, the best by an American since Levi Leipheimer was third overall in 2001.
Bruyneel confirmed that Danielson will be the team’s outright leader for the overall classification at the Vuelta and said the team is hoping to see continued evolution as a grand tour rider.
“He has combination of time-trailing and climbing that you need to be a contender in major tours, but only time will tell whether he’s a guy who can go for the top five, the podium or the win in major tours,” Bruyneel said. “He finished in the top ten in his first full major tour and that was really good to see, but we’re not going to raise our expectations too high either. We have to be realistic.”
Despite Danielson’s early departure, Bruyneel said he was impressed with Danielson’s performance in this year’s grueling Giro. Without the illness, Bruyneel said Danielson would have ridden into Milan securely in the top 10.
“I was very satisfied with him – his climbing, his work for Paolo and his time trials,” Bruyneel said. “If he hadn’t got sick, I think he would definitely have finished in the top ten. It’s a shame that his Giro has had to end like this, but it doesn’t alter my view of his qualities. This is a good race for him, just not a lucky race: he had to pull out because of a knee problem last year, and now this happens.”
Bruyneel said Danielson will take a break to recover from the health problems and then reload for the Vuelta.