2011 Pro-Cycling Passion Prize to Tom Danielson
Most fans adore winners and some glorify underdogs; it’s a surer bet to cheer on athletes who win repeatedly or aren’t expected to win. In professional cycling, no one remembers second place – except maybe a certain Luxembourger.
When high expectations surround a young athlete and he doesn’t meet them entirely, some fans feel disappointed and turn their attentions elsewhere. If this athlete then pulls off several stunning performances in a season, the same fans renew their love for him. It makes me wonder if fan fickleness frustrates athletes. When a person gives his heart to an endeavor, it could be hard not to take things personally.
Application of “heart,” through actions and words, sealed Tom Danielson’s win of the 2011 Passion Prize.
Earlier this month, during a meet and greet with fans in Boulder, he described his outlook on the 2012 Tour de France: “My goal and a good performance is to go in there with no expectations and with a lot of heart and just give it my all every single day from the start to the finish line.” That night Tom signed autographs for cyclists with these words: “Always ride with heart.”
In 2011 Tom finished as the top American in his first Tour de France with ninth place; he also contributed to Team Garmin-Cervélo’s defense of the yellow jersey and the team time trail win. His efforts for a high placing, which included fighting for a high placement on the Alpe d’Huez stage in the company of the eventual podium, helped earn the best overall team designation for Garmin-Cervélo. In the Tour de Suisse Tom rode aggressively and finished top 10 overall (he was 25th in the 2010 edition).
Tom raised high-spirited cheers from an otherwise quiet spectator crowd at the Tour of Utah time trial start house. Despite poor rest the night before the USA Pro Cycling Challenge time trial, he finished fourth ahead of many top men-against-the-clock; in that race he also attacked to lead a daring descent off Independence Pass under nasty weather.
By transforming challenging past experiences into motivation and putting in a lot of hard work, Tom built a collection of defining moments in his 2011 season. He knows he can “go any direction and get through anything.”
Off the bike Tom scored lots of passion points. He hosted the first Tommy D Thanksgiving Ride with Juniors. About 130 youngsters on bikes and their parents spread out on his lawn; they rode bikes and took photos with him. Before the ride started, Tom said he’d hang around after they returned for as long as anyone wanted an autograph or a photo. Tom attended charity events during a visit to Florida, and others as well.
Tom Danielson gives and then he gives some more. And that’s what passion is all about.
ProVéloPassion started the Passion Prize to recognize a cyclist who delivered a passionate performance on the bicycle. But cyclists devote their hearts to activities off the bike as well. The overall 2011 Passion Prize therefore belongs to a cyclist who accomplished both in 2011. It’s a somewhat subjective decision, and many riders, male and female, young and not-as-young, whose races and activities ProVéloPassion did and didn’t follow during the year surely deserve the prize as well. May they continue to ride with heart in 2012.