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An Interview With Tom Danielson by Jakob Duma
By Staff
Date: 9/30/2003
An Interview With Tom Danielson by Jakob Duma

Yellow Jersey Tom Danielson with Hernan Dario Munoz (Colombia Selle Italia) at the 2003 Tour de Langkawi. Photo by Gerald Lee.

Jakob Duma: So Tom, Fassa Bortolo for the next 2 years - that’s fantastic (congratulations). How do you feel right about now, the deal being official and all; is it like a dream finally come true?

Tom Danielson: Absolutely. The season has been very stressful for me, both with the racing and the contract negotiations. Luckily, I have a great infrastructure with Rick Crawford and Bob Mionske working hard to make sure everything is in place. Without them all of this would have been impossible. Also, Kristin was very supportive and kept my stress level down.

JD: Tom, you've just been in Italy (and besides the official press statement) you have also been looking at locations and other facilities for your new life here in Italy, how does it look? Does everything live up to your expectations? And do you know where your future home base in Italy will be?

TD: Italy is simply put, beautiful. Not only is the environment excellent, but the people are just as amazing. Very enthusiastic, and very friendly. Their love for cycling is seen everywhere. I was there for a few weeks, and after the first week I felt right at home. As for the team, I already feel like family. Ferretti is great and I am very happy to be teaming up with him. His knowledge and love of the sport were evident within the first few hours of meeting him. He truly believes in me, and just that motivates me. The team is huge and the program is so well oiled that it was easy to see why they are the number one team in the world. I will be based out of Lugo, which is where the Fassa team headquarters are. There really aren't many racers there, but that is where Ferretti lives. Having him close by will definitely be an asset in my first years. Overall I couldn't be happier. Everything is in order and the team is just amazing!

JD: At Fasso Bortolo your new "mentor" and team director will be no other than the great Giancarlo Ferretti, or the "General" as he’s known in some circles, and without a doubt a major capacity in the international world of cycling today. Are you looking forward to working together with Mr. Cycling himself, and are you maybe also a little a bit nervous as well?

TD: Definitely nervous, but very excited. When I first met him (funny story) was when he picked me up at the airport. I just froze when I got off the plane and saw him there waiting for me. Then, to top it off, he doesn't speak any English and the translator was back at the Fassa Bortolo plant. So, I just stood there trying to talk to him. Just imagine - being nervous about meeting a legend and trying to make small talk in a language you don't really know. At that moment I was sweating, exhausted, and telling myself, "The second you get home you are learing Italian!" But, that day he already started to act like a father. You can tell he gets very attached to his riders and that is something that I truly believe. Going back to the hotel the first night, I already was very motivated to work hard for him. I feel that tells it all.

JD: Tom, there’s been a rumor that you (if possible) would have liked to have a current Saturn team-member with you in your new team, but as you yourself pointed out it is very difficult to make that kind of agreements since room in the teams is so very tight right now in professional cycling, so how did that situation end up in real life? And besides that, does Fassa Bortolo actually have kind of an English trademark with the Italian/American Guido Trenti and fellow former MTB, Anglo/Italian Dario Cioni, so there will be a bit of English brigade backing you up within your new team and fellow team-members anyway. So are you still optimistic from that point of view?

TD: Well, yes, I did want a teammate to come over with me. However, given the state of cycling and the team, for this particular team it did not work. While I think it would have been good, it just didn't work out. As for the Guido Trenti, yeah, I don't know him yet. My teammate Tim Johnson met him at Worlds last year and said he was a great guy, but he didn't speak much English. Its funny because it is a kind of joke amongst the Fassa guys about how he has an American passport, but he is very much Italian. As for Dario Cioni, my friend Ned Overend knows him from the mtn bike circuit and really respects him. All in all, if the riders are anything like the team's staff and the people in Italy, they will both be very friendly and easy to get along with. I am coming from the Saturn team which operated very much like a family and from what I understand, Fassa Bortolo is the same.

JD: Even though it's very early to talk about your schedule for the upcoming 2004 season, you mentioned that the 2004 Giro D´Italia very well could figure as one of your main objectives next seasons. Any news regarding your future racing schedule and what your primary goals will be focused on next year?

TD: Well, we sat down with Ferretti a number of times to talk about next year. While my schedule won't be made until December or January, it looks like my main objective will be the Giro. He understands I am new, however he feels as if we cannot waste any time. I should be doing some early season races as training and then some big ones in March and April to prepare for May. But when I know for sure I will let you know.

JD: Another thing I think many fans out there are wondering about is if you are brought to Fassa Bortolo to act as a team leader for the stage-racing events next year, or if there will be a natural learning process for you to begin with - with lots of advice from the experienced team of riders and directors that you now will have behind you as a big support at Fassa Bortolo, adapting to the new country, new surroundings, pace, climbs, etc., etc. Will this be your number one focus for your first year in Europe, or have you already started thinking a little bit result-minded also?

TD: That is a good question. Obviously I have a ton to learn! No question about that. But I feel I have chosen the best team and have surrounded myself with the best people to help me with that. With that said, Ferretti sees me as a rider who focuses on the big stage races. I don't want to say I will be a team leader, just if things are working right, I will be given the opportunty and the support. I have a ton of respect for the European riders on and off my team. I know I have to work extremely hard to achieve my goals and the goals of the team. With that frame of mind, I want to show the team that I will be there for them so when I am ready, they will be there for me. The door swings both ways and in order to have a successful team, everyone must be willing to sacrifice for the good of the team. Down the road, yes, I want to be a good stage racer and only time will tell just how long that road really is.

JD: Another part of your newly crowned European adventure is of course leaving the States and all your many friends, and most of all, your family. How are you looking forward to facing that challenge? And what about your fiancée Kristin? Is she going with you to Italy as a major support in this new, hard but exciting phase of your life, or is she doing to stay in the States for awhile, maybe before joining you later on in some part of the new season?

TD: My family and friends are very supportive and are already making plans to come over and watch some of my races. Obviously it is going to be tough, but I couldn't be surrounded by a better group of people. My coach is coming over to live with me for the better part of the season to help with training, and Ferretti will always be around. As for Kristin, she will be popping in and out as she pursues her own racing career. Her focus will be the domestic program which runs about the same as what I will be doing over in Europe. But, she will be there for the big races where I will need the most support. I hope too, that I will be able to come back to the US in my rest weeks during the season.

JD: So Tom, unfortunately injuries kept you from riding a good Tour de l'Avenir, and also the World Championships in Hamilton this season; a major blow for you, I’m sure. How are you feeling about not being able to take part in maybe two of the biggest targets in the second half of your season?

TD: I'm glad you ask this because it has been unclear to a lot of people. I developed tendinitis in my left leg's IT band from a crash way back in July. It was right before Cascade Classic and I had to race that with a hurt knee. So because of the knee, I favored other muscles which ultimately caused the problem I was dealing with in August.

It really didn't bother me too much until all the traveling and the stress associated with signing with Fassa. When I was out in Italy, my left leg was tingly and when I rode, my pedal stroke was broken to avoid the pain. I really shouldn't have forced it by going to Avenir, but I really wanted to keep USA Cycling happy by doing well in the race. When I arrived I realized the how serious this minor injury was becoming, and after doing the TT where I was pedaling with one leg, I pulled out.

Next year is now the focus of everything, and overdoing it with this injury could create something much worse, ultimately ruining my pre-season training for next year. Yes, it is a bummer to miss these two races, but my goals are down the road. Next year is too important to risk. I hope everyone understands this. I've had a great year and I am not disappointed one bit to miss these two races. There will be plenty of bigger tours down the road, and many more World Championships.

JD: By the way, how is your injury coming along at the moment, has the recovery gone as planned, and are you little by little feeling ready to start thinking about all the major assignments next year has to offer?

TD: As for how I am now, much better. I took a big rest block during which I had lots of massage, stretching, and strengthening. It is 100 times better and I am now going on fun, long road and mtn bike rides. Durango [Colorado] in the fall is incredible! But yes, as the days tick by, next year gets closer and I am so antsy to start training for next year.

I am always bugging Rick, "Hey, how 'bout November 1st," always trying to get him to move up the date I start training for next year. It will come soon enough, but I just can't wait! But what I can do now is practice and learn Italian. I have all these tapes and stuff and have a tutor starting in October. Kristin is always making fun of me when I don't practice, but I tell her I am just recovering from my 3 weeks over there still! But yeah, I really need to focus on that for now.

JD: Okay, one last question Tom. Will you be joining Fassa Bortolo on any of their last training-camps or trips here the last part of the season? Or will you be totally focusing on finishing off your own season with the above object in mind, and then join Fassa Bortolo squad at the end of the official 2003 calendar?

TD: Right now it looks as if our 2004 season kicks off in December with a press camp in Milano and a "team bonding" camp near by Bologna. Looks like there won't be any snowmobiling there, so I should be ok. (If you don't know this story, I crashed a snowmobile off a 30 ft cliff at my December Saturn camp. What a way to introduce myself to those guys!) After that I am back in the States for Christmas and then over for two training camps in January.

Before I go I would just like to thank everyone for supporting me this year. Especially my friends and family, Kristin, and of course a big thank you to the Saturn team (Tim, Phil, Nathan, Chris, Trent, Eric, Will, Mark, Charles, Ivan, Victor, and Rahsaan, all of the sponsors, and the amazing staff). It was an honor to be a part of such a great program and I hope you all will continue better than ever next year, and for many more years to come. It is just very motivational to hear from all of you, whether it is on email, in a chat room, or on the side of the race course. Thank you very much and I will remember it when I'm out training for the coming season.

Thanks very much, Tom!

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