Tom Danielson rides into two decisive stages in the French Alps with hopes of defending his spot in the top-10 overall at the Tour de France.
Garmin-Cervélo defended its lead in the team ranking in Wednesday’s 179km 17th stage from Gap, France to Pinerolo, Italy. Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen won the stage out of a big breakaway and Thomas Voeckler defended yellow.
Danielson crossed the line 30th at 4:53 back and ceded 27 seconds to some of the top GC rivals, but was able to defend his grip on ninth place overall.
“If I can get through this Tour in ninth or 10th, or whatever it is, I just want to give my all,” Danielson said. “I am excited about the Alps and the final time trial. I just have to recover from today and move forward.”
Garmin-Cervélo rode to protect Danielson leading up to a short but steep second-category in the closing kilometers. Danielson survived the harrowing descent to the finish line without major mishaps.
“I took it cautious on the downhill. Basso stacked it on a corner and I went into him. That opened a gap between us and the others, then Voeckler crashed ahead of us, and that opened up more time,” Danielson said. “We all worked together and we just lost a handful of seconds at the finish. I got down it in one piece, that was my goal today.”
Garmin-Cervélo will rally around Danielson as well as push for the team classification, determined each stage by that day’s top-3 riders.
The team holds a promising lead of 5:27 to Leopard-Trek, so the team will be looking to the likes of Danielson, Christian Vande Velde and Ryder Hesjedal to finish strong in the next two summit finishes in the Alps.
“Tommy will keep plugging away in the GC. It’s going to be hard to keep a spot in the top-10 because the standings are still very tight. There’s a lot of competition for the top-10 this year,” said Garmin-Cervélo team manager Jonathan Vaughters.
“For the team standings, we’re right there so we’re going to give it a shot to win. It’s important, but for the next two days, it’s all about who has the legs. We’ll see how our guys can hold up in the Alps.”
The 98th Tour continues Thursday with the 200.5km 18th stage from Pinerolo, Italy, to the Galibier summit at 2,059 meters. The stage features three grueling beyond-category summits, including the final climb up the Galibier.
More photos from the Tour de France:
[flickr-gallery mode="tag" tags="2011, TDF" tag_mode="all"]