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California On Tom Danielson's Radar

By JoE Silva

Garmin-Barracuda's Tom Danielson has just gotten in from a six-hour ride and a trip to workout in his local gym. It's less than a month to the Amgen Tour of California and the 34 year-old rider is from all accounts eager and more than ready to ride hard on the left coast.

"It's definitely a goal. I've been training hard and really preparing well for July and for the Amgen Tour of California and this year the route is fantastic. I did a good race there last year and it really set me up well for the rest of the season."

Considering that not much more than 40 days later Danielson would embark on his first Tour de France journey where he would finish in the top 10, that's quite the endorsement.

Now Danielson returns to the Amgen Tour of California as the team's captain. Danielson added experience from having raced in France should serve him as he reassesses the biggest event on the American calendar.

"I would definitely say that during some of the earlier stages, especially the Santa Cruz County day has always been selective in years past. I've ridden out there before and I think we climb up a little bit more and then come down via a different descent. From what I remember it's pretty technical too. Now with the whole peloton being on a very high level because of the race's placement on the calendar, I think that stage in particular can be more explosive than in the past."

Noting that the this year's time trial is also a massive consideration to contenders for the overall, Danielson doesn't feel like the shift from the traditional Solvang course to Bakersfield should be taken lightly.

"From what I've heard it's got rolling climbs and I think on paper, the guys who are good time trialists have to try and get time on the other riders before that Mt. Baldy stage, because as we saw last year there were huge time gaps on (that climb)."

But what Danielson feels is hyper important to consider for the 2012 installment of the race is the position of the Mt. Baldy stage following the run up to Big Bear Lake. That one-two punch, is where the Garmin rider feels the race will be made.

"For guys like myself that's really the critical day. If I can put myself in good position the entire week, that's good. But for me Baldy is really the stage, especially coming after a long day at altitude at Big Bear. Last year we came pretty fresh into Baldy, but this year is going to be different in terms of selections and time gaps. Guys are going to attack from the bottom and that last part of Baldy will all of sudden become that much harder."

Danielson will come with plenty of support to California, but he maintains that the team has already put forth a great effort in terms of setting him up for the best possible result.

"I've had a lot of excellent opportunities given to me by my team that have allowed me to prepare for races like California and the Tour de France with no stress and a really excellent race schedule. I've had a lot of good times here at home and really good training block here at home in Colorado. And I think At 34 I've learned quite a bit of stuff, and so I think I'm in a really good spot."