Who is this new Tommy D?

Garmin strategy has helped rejuvenate the FLC alumnus

Tom Danielson rolls down the Stage 1 starting line in Durango, happily shaking hands with his college hometown fans who showed up in force to watch the Fort Lewis College alumnus lead the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in and out of Durango to Telluride. Enlarge photo

Jerry McBride/Durango Herald

Tom Danielson rolls down the Stage 1 starting line in Durango, happily shaking hands with his college hometown fans who showed up in force to watch the Fort Lewis College alumnus lead the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in and out of Durango to Telluride.

BOULDER – Where did this new Tom Danielson come from?

This exuberant, attack-happy professional bike racer?

This Fort Lewis College graduate turned USA Pro Cycling Challenge stage winner who kissed announcer Bob Roll on national television?

Ask Danielson, and he’ll point – definitively – to one week last fall that he spent in his college town of Durango.

“Last fall, I really had a motivating week down in Durango. There were incredible vibes there,” Danielson said of his return to FLC where he hosted the Durango Fall Blaze bicycle tour, his annual fundraising ride for the Skyhawks’ cycling program.

“The energy of the people, the support of the people was just incredible,” he said after receiving a hero’s welcome coming off a season when he had finished eighth in the Tour de France (the best American) and fourth in the inaugural USA Pro Challenge.

A fresh attitude, a commitment to a gluten-free diet and a refreshing trip to the Four Corners where he rode with the current Skyhawks propelled Danielson into a new season. He found immediate results: eighth in the Tour of Switzerland.

But two horrific crashes in his ill-fated Tour de France this year sent Danielson right back to Boulder where he tried to recover from two separated shoulders, innumerable buises, a major hematoma on his ankle, a bruised ego and extensive skin loss.

“My wife really picked up the slack,” Danielson said of his rehab at home when he couldn’t even pick up his young son and daughter.

He said he channeled his anger from crashing out of the Tour de France into a comeback aimed at the USA Pro Challenge.

And there was a lot of anger, enough anger to match his most irritating side effect from the accident – the skin loss.

Then, Danielson came back to Durango.

“I, very much, noticed a change with Tom this week,” said velonews.com editor Brian Holcombe, who has covered professional cycling all over the world.

“From the prerace press conference (at FLC), where he basically led the hour-long improv (comedy) session, to the team presentatation where he stayed around and ... started thanking everyone in Durango for hosting the stage,” said Holcombe, an active cyclist and former collegiate racer at Colorado State University.

“He was so excited; I’ve never seen him quite like that,” Holcombe said.”He’s been more exuberant ... he’s showing more excitement this week.”

The Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda race philosophy is contributing, Holcombe said.

“It’s my impression that the aggressive nature that Garmin is bringing to this race is benefitting him. It is allowing (Tom) to break through a barrier,” the cycling journalist said.

“He talked about that ... about riding with more freedom and riding with more aggression. And it’s refreshing to see him ride like this,” Holcombe said.

“It does seem like a different Tom ... one who’s not so reserved or calculating about how the final result might be,” said Frankie Andreu, a former professional cyclist and Boulder-based cycling journalist.

Andreu was a captain on the former U.S. Postal powerhouse teams that included Lance Armstrong. Andreu said the pressure is not solely on Danielson but also on his star-studded Garmin cast of teammates.

“He’s racing ... he’s not having to sit in (the peloton). When you sit in, the pressure just builds and builds and builds,” Andreu said.

“The pressure’s not on Tom, and he’s having a lot more fun. He’s riding much better by attacking and going with the flow,” said Andreu, who watched Danielson ride solo to a stage win Wednesday in Aspen.

“I’ve never seen him (Danielson) ride the way he did on Wednesday into Aspen,” said Holcombe, who cited attacks on Cottonwood Pass and Independence Pass.

But Danielson’s solo run into Aspen – against a stern headwind – made the biggest impression on the velonews.com editor.

“For Tom to just bury his head and do that ... he’s been accused of not having the killer instinct that he had at one time,” Holcombe said. “But he seems to have rediscovered some of that.”

Holcombe said he was more impressed with Danielson’s stage win than 40-year-old Jens Voigt’s solo victory one day later.

“Danielson ... had the top (general classification) guys chasing him, and he held them off. That was one of the most incredible rides I’ve ever seen.”

dstrode@durangoherald.com

Tom Danielson signs an autograph for 12-year-old Madeleine Bruno on Monday in Durango before Stage 1 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. “The energy of the people, the support of the people was just incredible,” Danielson says of his return trips to Durango. Enlarge photo

Jerry McBride/Durango Herald

Tom Danielson signs an autograph for 12-year-old Madeleine Bruno on Monday in Durango before Stage 1 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. “The energy of the people, the support of the people was just incredible,” Danielson says of his return trips to Durango.

Telluride fans took pictures of Tom Danielson in his new jersey after winning the King of the Mountain kit during Stage 1 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Danielson wore that jersey through Saturday’s stage, but Jens Voigt took the jersey and will wear it Sunday on the final day of the tour. Enlarge photo

Steve Lewis/Durango Herald

Telluride fans took pictures of Tom Danielson in his new jersey after winning the King of the Mountain kit during Stage 1 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Danielson wore that jersey through Saturday’s stage, but Jens Voigt took the jersey and will wear it Sunday on the final day of the tour.

“I’ve never seen (Tom Danielson) ride the way he did on Wednesday into Aspen,” said velonews.com editor Brian Holcombe, who called Danielson’s Stage 3 victory “one of the most incredible rides I’ve ever seen.” Enlarge photo

Chris Council/Aspen Daily News

“I’ve never seen (Tom Danielson) ride the way he did on Wednesday into Aspen,” said velonews.com editor Brian Holcombe, who called Danielson’s Stage 3 victory “one of the most incredible rides I’ve ever seen.”

“It’s my impression that the aggressive nature that Garmin is bringing to this race is benefitting (Tom Danielson). It is allowing to break through a barrier,” velonews.com editor Brian Holcombe said. Enlarge photo

Chris Council/Aspen Daily News

“It’s my impression that the aggressive nature that Garmin is bringing to this race is benefitting (Tom Danielson). It is allowing to break through a barrier,” velonews.com editor Brian Holcombe said.