By Andrew Hood
Tom Danielson is scheduled to start the Tour of Austria (July 4-10) in what will be his return to racing after pulling out of the Giro d’Italia with knee troubles. Danielson saw his Giro come to an abrupt end with pain and swelling in his knee made it impossible for him to continue.
“The knee is good and I am back,” Danielson said in an e-mail. “I’ve been training just a little, but all is good. I’m healed it up and now I am strengthened the source of the problem. It is crazy how our bodies can just go out of whack from something we do everyday. Luckily, I am on the best team in the world, surrounded by the best people, and we were able to address this properly and correctly. I am very thankful to be with these guys and am so motivated to get out there and get back to work for them.”
Discovery Channel boss Johan Bruyneel said Danielson will then take aim for the Vuelta a España, when the Tour de Georgia champion will be intent on getting his first full three weeks of a grand tour in his legs.
“He’ll start again in July in the Tour of Austria and then the Vuelta,” Bruyneel said.
As far as the Vuelta is concerned, Bruyneel said the team will race the autumn grand tour much in the vein as last year’s plan, without a clear leader, but motivated for stage-wins to animate the race.
“I don’t worry the Vuelta, that’s too far away,” said Bruyneel if he was considering the treble to with the Giro wins and a possible seventh Tour crown for Armstrong.
“We’ll have a strong team. Not a real leader, but the plan right now is Azevedo, Beltran, Rubiera, Noval and Danielson,” he said. “That’s our five guys and we see how we fill up the team.”
Rihs hopeful for Hamilton case
Phonak team owner Andy Rihs was in Morzine on Sunday morning to rally the troops going into the exciting finale of the 57th Dauphiné Libéré.
The Swiss businessman said he’s more than pleased with how the team has rebounded from early season troubles to enter next month’s Tour de France with a solid block of contenders.
“At the time it was very bad for the team, we had this exclusion from the ProTour,” Rihs said. “But CAS has seen it like we have seen it, that you cannot exclude a team because you have riders who haven’t been (judged) yet. I think we got a just answer from CAS. It took some energy from the team to get going, but we had a great start to the season.”
Absent from next month’s Tour will be ex-Phonak rider Tyler Hamilton, who instead will be appealing a two-year racing ban in the Court of Arbitration of Sport. A hearing is expected sometime this month.
“In my opinion, legally, they can’t judge against him, knowing what I know, without being a political person, just looking at the legal side,” Rihs said. “His verdict is very political in my opinion and CAS is more objective.”
Last month, the USADA ruled 2-1 to ban Hamilton for two years for illegal blood doping. Hamilton has vigourously declared his innocence and has mounted an aggressive defense challenging the validity of the testing methods.
“We wanted to know about this test, what’s the validation of this test. The first time somebody gets sued from the test, you want to know how this has worked,” Rihs said. “Let’s make us a second opinion if you cannot get the validation of the test. We want to test the test.”
Rihs has staunchly supported the Olympic gold medalist, remaining quietly in contact with his star rider despite Hamilton’s official departure from the team.
Rihs doesn’t discount Hamilton’s return to the team if his ban is overturned by CAS, but said he didn’t want to comment further until the CAS makes its final decision.
“So far Tyler has a chance to get free. That’s another point about coming back to the team. He was a great guy. I like him very much. He’s such a fighter,” Rihs said. “Now that’s tempi passati … Now we’re looking ahead.”
No Tour for Vande Velde
Christian Vande Velde is back in Girona, Spain, recovering from a heavy racing schedule through the spring.
The Team CSC rider pulled out of the Dauphiné Libéré in Saturday’s climbing stage to Morzine, which comes as no surprise after racing hard during the Giro d’Italia last month in support of team captain Ivan Basso.
With the Giro in the bag, there won’t be a Tour de France start for the 29-year-old. Instead, Vande Velde will enjoy some down time in his recently completed home and reload for the Vuelta a España.
“I’m going home and lick the wounds,” Vande Velde said. “I want to get healthy and go fast in the Vuelta.”