By Andrew Hood
American hope Tom Danielson won’t be making his grand tour debut in the Vuelta a España this weekend, after all.
Danielson had hoped to take part in his first three-week tour, but was once again disappointed after Fassa Bortolo brass left him off the nine-man team.
The 26-year-old Coloradan was told last week he wouldn’t be starting the Vuelta (September 4-26). The news comes as a blow to the promising racer who’s been making steady progress in his first year in Europe with expectations of starting at least one of the season’s major three-week tours for the silver train.
“I’m completely unhappy about it,” Danielson told VeloNews. “It’s been tough for me to deal with. It’s something that I sort of had an idea about since last week. They decided for some reason I’m not going. For me it’s a big blow.”
Danielson was also initially penciled in to race the Giro d’Italia back in May, but the team decided the Euro-rookie needed some extra racing experience before starting one of cycling’s grueling three-week races.
Instead, he was told to get ready for the Vuelta, which — with a string of summit finishes and shorter road stages — seemed ideal for Danielson’s skills. In May, he finished an impressive 18th overall at the Tour of Romandie before returning to the United States where he smashed the record on the Mount Evans Hill Climb in July, taking four minutes and ten seconds off Mike Engleman’s 12-year-old course record.
The very next day, he flew directly to Europe to race the demanding 10-stage Tour of Portugal, where Danielson admitted he was suffering from jet lag but capped the performance with a solid seventh place in the final-day time trial.
“That was by far the hardest race of my entire life. The whole Maia team was climbing like Roberto Heras,” Danielson said about Portugal. “I raced the entire race below the red zone. Had I done so, my season would have been done, so I backed off in every stage, but in the last time trial I decided to put in a good effort. … I left the race with confidence and the team was happy with my time trial, so everything was on schedule for the Vuelta.”
Or so he thought.
On August 17, Danielson was part of the decisive final break in the Tre Valli Varesine, a tough one-day race in Italy when he pulled his hamstring. After a few days rest, Danielson rode well in Sunday’s GP Kanton Aargau, helping teammate Matteo Tosatto to win. He thought everything was set for the Vuelta, but last week he said the team started to change its tune on whether he’d start.
“For sure it was difficult, to work so hard for a certain goal like that, to have it taken away,” Danielson said after he learned he wasn’t going to Spain. “I feel like I have the capability to do good a race. I’m strong enough to finish and learn, but the team says next year is your year. A three-week tour is a much different than a five- to 10-day stage race. I need to do it, for my body, my head. Now I will do a bunch of one-day races when I prefer time trials and mountains.”
Danielson said he wants to get something positive despite the setback and vowed to get a strong result before the end of the season. He also hopes to race the world championships in early October.
Fassa Bortolo for Trofeo Melinda, Sept. 2 (ITA 1.2)
Tom Danielson Thomas
Luca De Angeli
Cioni, Gonzalez lead Fassa at Vuelta
With Tom Danielson on the sidelines, Fassa Bortolo will enter the Vuelta a España with a double attack in the overall classification and an all-out charge for stage victories with ace sprinter Alessandro Petacchi.
For the overall battle, the silver train will have 2002 winner Aitor Gonzalez and Dario Cioni, fourth in the 2004 Giro d’Italia duking it out for the final spoils while Petacchi will be looking to add to his cache of stage victories.
Petacchi, who crashed out of the 2004 Tour de France without winning a stage, will have the full support of the team, including the return from injury of ace set-up man Italian-American Guido Trenti.
Fassa Bortolo for Vuelta a España
Pecharroman wants Vuelta revival
José Antonio Pecharromán will be hoping for a reversal of fortune during the upcoming Vuelta a España as he leads Quick Step into the season’s final grand tour.
In 2003, Pecharromán stormed to victories in the Bicicleta Vasca and the Tour of Cataluyna, but suffered through injuries since then. He injured his knee last season and started the 2004 season off with a fractured hand during a hard fall at Ruta del Sol, which kept him out of the Tour de France.
Now fully recovered, the 26-year-old Spaniard is eyeing the final podium of the Vuelta.
Quick Step for Vuelta a España
José Antonio Garrido
José Antonio Pecharromán
Jurgen Van Goolen
Six foreign bids for Tour start
London is facing competition from five other bids to host the start of the 2005 Tour de France. London mayor Ken Livingstone has made a proposal for the race to visit Britain for the second time.
Christian Prudhomme, the assistant director of the Tour, revealed the bids on a visit to the Tour of Slovakia.
“At the moment we have six offers for next year – from Belgium, Denmark, London, Lugano, Utrecht and Quebec,” Prudhomme told the media.
Verbruggen: ‘Majority clean’
UCI president Hein Verbruggen insists the majority of professional racers are clean despite a rash of high-profile cases against former world champions David Millar and Oscar Camenzind. Speaking to Eurosport, Verbruggen said the “majority of riders are clean.” “I’m sorry that the media has adopted a politic of saying, ‘They’re all on [doping products]’” Verbruggen told Eurosport. “They’re not all on it. I’m convinced of it, for the Olympics and in my sport as well. The majority of the riders are clean. Okay, well, we have 1.5 percent of positive cases. … We all know there are some athletes that are getting away with it. But I have no reason to think that the percentage is higher than 1.5 percent. We are able to see who is clean and who isn’t. It’s the same in Greece. Some will get caught, some will get away, but there’s no reason to think that the majority of athletes are positive.”