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 hell 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 heros 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 couldnt 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; Ive never seen him quite like that, Holcombe said.Hes been more exuberant ... hes showing more excitement this week.
The Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda race philosophy is contributing, Holcombe said.
Its 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 its refreshing to see him ride like this, Holcombe said.
It does seem like a different Tom ... one whos 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.
Hes racing ... hes not having to sit in (the peloton). When you sit in, the pressure just builds and builds and builds, Andreu said.
The pressures not on Tom, and hes having a lot more fun. Hes riding much better by attacking and going with the flow, said Andreu, who watched Danielson ride solo to a stage win Wednesday in Aspen.
Ive 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 Danielsons 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 ... hes 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 Danielsons stage win than 40-year-old Jens Voigts 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 Ive ever seen.