Tom Danielson bravely defended his spot in the top-10 as the squad defended its hold on the team classification in Thursday’s grueling, three-climb 200.5km 18th stage across the French Alps.
Danielson hung with the top GC favorites over two hors-categorie climbs and fended off wind and high altitude to cross the line ninth at 3:25 back in the decisive “queen stage” of the 2011 Tour.
“The goal today was to stay with the favorites as long as I could. I felt good, but I had to let go with about 5km to go. Then it kind of flattened out and I was able to gain back some ground,” Danielson said.
“We have one more hard day in the mountains then the final TT. At the end of the day, I just want to be satisfied with my ride. The team was great today protecting me. I couldn’t ask for more from them.”
Garmin-Cervélo’s Ramunas Navarkdauskas rode into the day’s main breakaway, a strong tactic to have a pair of legs up the road to protect the team GC as well as be ready to help.
Later, Christian Vande Velde and Ryder Hesjedal stepped up to help protect Danielson late in the stage and assure that Garmin-Cerveélo would protect the team GC standings.
Hejsedal crossed the line 10th and Vande Velde 12th to widen Garmin-Cervélo’s to 10:30 to Ag2r-La Mondiale.
“We have the team classification right there, so of course we’re going to ride for it,” Hesjedal said.
“I’m happy with how we rode today. I’m glad I had the legs to be there for Tom. It was a really hard stage. And tomorrow is going to be another hard one.”
The 98th Tour continues Friday with the short but explosive 109.5km 19th stage back over the Galibier and to conclude up Alpe d’Huez.
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