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As news spread Monday of Tom Danielson’s positive test for synthetic testosterone, reactions from riders at the Tour of Utah, where Danielson was the two-time defending champion, were a mixture of dismay, awkward body language, and blunt language.
“Danielson and I turned pro the same year,” said Ben Jacques-Maynes, the veteran Jamis-Hagens Berman rider, just prior to stage 1. “You can see the massive difference in our career trajectories from 2002. Having said that, we now know why there’s a trajectory difference.
“We kind of knew about that with the Reasoned Decision and the whole Lance Armstrong thing coming out. Danielson gave plenty of testimony about his own drug use then. But I guess he hasn’t given it up. I don’t know what he could be thinking that it’s even a possibility. I don’t know what drives people to do these things.”
Danielson, Chris Horner (Airgas-Safeway), and Frank Schleck (Trek) were the predicted top contenders for the overall title, with Horner the runner up to Danielson the past two years. Schleck has several top-five overall Tour de France finishes and is competing in the Tour of Utah for the first time.
Horner wouldn’t comment specifically on Danielson, but he said the race strategy would change. Schleck was unfazed and pragmatic.
“We’ll just race hard, I guess,” said the Luxembourg rider. “He explained it and there’s nothing we can do. We have to wait for the B sample and before I would dare to say anything against him. He has to have a fair chance.”
Veteran United Healthcare rider rider Janez Brajkovic grasped for words.
“Honestly, I don’t know what to say,” Brajkovic said. “I don’t know all the details and I don’t want to judge people, but it definitely sounds bad. He’d be done, sure.”
Danielson faces a lifetime ban from the sport should his B sample confirm the positive test. He served a six-month suspension, from September 1, 2012 to March 1, 2013, after he admitted to doping during his time with the Discovery Channel team.
Like Horner, Brajkovic said the race strategy would change. With stages 6 and 7 of the weeklong including beyond category climbs, Cannondale-Garmin was expected to control the tempo of earlier stages.
“I guess it’s probably going to be harder for us,” Brajkovic said. “We were counting on them to control the race. We’ll have to be a little more aggressive and see what happens.”