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For Danielson, a homecoming in Durango and on Flagstaff

Since crashing out of the Tour, Tom Danielson has focused on one thing: a double homecoming in Durango and Boulder

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TELLURIDE, Colorado (VN) — Four days. That’s all the time Tom Danielson took off the bike when he arrived home in Boulder after crashing out of the Tour de France last month. Since he got back on, his focus has been singular; his focus has been on Colorado.

“Tommy D,” as he’s known across the sport, finished eighth at the 2011 Tour de France. A few days after a hard crash into Boulogne-sur-Mer in July, he finally fell victim to the Metz Massacre, and hopped a flight home early. His shoulders were separated and his Garmin-Sharp team was in shambles after crashes struck during the Tour’s first week. Danielson could hardly stand to watch.

“I was more than bummed. I had a really hard time with it. I was really frustrated. Every day. I really wanted to watch the Tour, but I couldn’t deal with it,” Danielson told VeloNews. “I would just be so excited to watch the Tour, because I love the Tour and I love bike racing. But then, I would almost leave for my ride right afterwards just super depressed and frustrated and upset.”

He looked to Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) as an example. Leipheimer was hit by a car while training in Spain earlier this spring, and clawed his way back to start in his home race, the Amgen Tour of California. The USA Pro Challenge is like that for Danielson.

“I looked to Levi as a big motivation,” said Danielson. “He had an unfortunate situation as well, and he was back on his bike, the trainer, riding. To be honest, when you’re injured like that and you start riding again, things don’t work. Everything overcompensates.”

Danielson got back on the bike as fast as he could to prepare for Colorado, where he finished fourth last year. The race starts in Durango, where Danielson emerged as a true cycling talent while at Fort Lewis College and sees a pivotal stage in Boulder, where he lives now, up Flagstaff Mountain, his favorite climb.

“We could get into it all day. This year’s route is spectacular for me, obviously starting in Durango. I guess I would say that I have two hometowns — Durango and Boulder. It starts in Durango and bookends in Boulder. My favorite climb in the world is Flagstaff. If I had a choice to ride any climb I could, anywhere, and fly to it, it would be Flagstaff,” he said. “[Fort Lewis] is really responsible for my career in road cycling. Durango is really responsible for my success in road cycling. It’s just emotional for me to even talk about it.”

In the week leading up to the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, Danielson was out riding repeats on Flagstaff, a seminal climb above Boulder, at a fleet clip.

He’s ridden the Denver time trial course. He’s imagined the fans screaming at him in Boulder. It’s all played out in his head a hundred times. And soon, it’s time to pin a number on.

“I just had goose bumps. Six o’clock in the morning, I had police escorts. Just ripping around Denver. I could already hear the fans,” he said. “And every time I do Flagstaff, I get goose bumps and start freaking out, because I can see what it’s going to be like. You don’t get very many opportunities to race one of the biggest races in the world in your backyard.”

This race matters to Danielson. It’s easy to hear it when he talks; it’s easy to see it when he’s flying up Flagstaff. There’s a feeling that Danielson thinks he owes it to the state to ride strong, from his college town to his hometown.

“Colorado, cycling for me, it’s what’s given me all the gifts I have now, all the opportunities I have now. And it’s why I choose to live here,” he said. “I could live anywhere in the world. So it’s a very special race for me.”