By Chris Baldwin
We have a pragmatic national champion in Timmy Duggan, a short-haul stageracer with classics endurance and pro tour savvy. He won in Greenville this year by taking a long look at the squabbling gods on the final circuit and deciding their chops were a bluff.
He rides for the Italian team Liquigas-Cannondale, in case you weren't watching the one-camera helicopter internet live stream of tweetspirational commentary and rambling from Neil Browne. On this upcoming Saturday morning Timmy's going to race at the Olympics.
Duggan has also come back from a brain injury. A couple years ago he crashed so hard at the Tour of Georgia he got a subarachnoid hemmorhage resulting in a subdural hematoma, with two days of his memory erased and a team time trial victory in his convalescent honor.
How badly did he crash? Mauricio-Soler badly, Saul-Raisin badly. A bruise-on-his-brain and blood-pooled-under-the-skullbones badly.
And with more of his measured pragmatism he surmounted the not insignificant hurdle of getting a doctor's approval to get himself back into a competitive but potentially concussive sport, switching from Garmin in the offing, now racing overseas nearly all the time.
"I kind of like those chaotic races where it doesn't come down to the horsepower that one or two teams have," Duggan says on the phone from his home in Spain.
"It becomes really tactical, and its up to the individual rider to make the right decisions, and make his move at the right time. I really enjoy that kind of racing, I think it's pretty exciting. Certainly the US Pro Championships was a race like that, and I think the Olympics coming up here in London are going to be a similar kind of race."
He says he is still sweating from the heat of a training ride in the Catalunya summer, recovering a bit after a week spent defending his teammate Mario Moser's yellow jersey at the Tour de Pologne. In a few days he heads to the Olympic Village, where the teams are smaller, the distance is pegged at a six-hour finish, and they go up a pretty tight zig-zag Surrey hill nine times.
YOU SEE SOMEBODY NAKED
In the waning hour at South Carolina this June he watched chaos mount as van Garderen, Jacques-Maynes, Beyer, Danielson and Busche all eyeballed each other up Paris Mountain. Duggan, back racing in his fourth season at full speed, accepted their torpid calamity with still more pragmatism and went for it, Boonenesque, to solo home the 20k to the finish.
There was a woman in a bath towel at the bottom of the final turn in Greenville flashing people. I ask Timmy if he saw her, what she looked like. If she was sporting an apple pie or a slice of key lime.
And he says "wow, that's pretty intense. I hadn't heard that," and slips into a less-nervous laugh now, uncertain if his old Garmin media training covered this, a naked person question.
"That's kind of a poor place to be doing that, it could potentially cause a high-speed crash," he continues, pragmatically.
He didn't see her five times going by, the naked woman, even though every car following the break, both neutral service bikes, the chasers and all the motocommissars got a peek.
Key lime being the consensus.
THE JOKER LAUGHS AT YOU
Duggan rose out of the Slipstream program, founded with real estate money, now sponsored by Garmin and Sharp. It's a management company, the sponsor changes around it, and the word 'team' is implicit. At Slipstream Duggan began developing into a rider who comes on strong at the end of 250k, or the sixth stage of nine, and who isn't afraid of anybody.
"I don't get tired. At the end of the race. The fifth day I'm just feeling the same. I don't get tired, other guys do, I don't know why," he says.
Timmy Duggan discovered he was an athlete as a teenage alpine skiracer lugging sacks of potatoes up and down the football bleachers in training. He's about 5'8", sometimes a couple of potatoes short of 135lbs after a week-long stage race. He grew up in Boulder, where athletes arrive in their twenties to train, but he's too small to be a pro skiracer. To keep in shape during the summers his ski trainer told him to ride a bike. He excelled at mountain biking, it's all very familiar.
"I realized I was pretty good at cycling without really training for it. Living in my home region I had tons of opportunities for racing at a high level locally, and meeting and racing with a lot of local pros and really good amateurs. I learned a lot, I raced a lot all at a decent level, all in a pretty short period of time. Definitely living in Boulder, I wouldn't have had access to that kind of cycling infrastructure had I been somewhere else. For sure that opened the door to the sport for me," he says.
A door that has led him to Italy's strongest professional cycling team, with Peter Sagan, Ivan Basso, Moreno Moser, Vincenzo Nibali, Daniel Oss and Elia Viviani among his peers.
"All my Liquigas teammates were like Junior Under-12 National Champion of somewhere," he says, and laughs as one would laugh if your bunkmates at the prisoner of war camp you were transferred into after you parachuted over enemy-held Belgium when your B-17 flamed out were a gang of rodeo clowns and cat burglars.
"If I could do my sport at the top level and get paid well and never have to be more than an hour flight from my home in Boulder, Colorado, man - how awesome would that be?," he gives a wistful huff.
He and his wife finished building a new house this May, but he still hasn't spent more than a week in it since his season really got going. The home is in a fire mitigation zone full of explosive timber that Timmy says only a 10-day stint in November with a chainsaw is going to make a difference for come next Summer.
"And that's what the European guys have. For us Americans, depending on what job our wives do, we might not get to see the family or the house or the dog, or the wife, for two or three months at a time," he said from the Girona apartment he spends the summer in with his wife, a school teacher, and their dog.
WORLD TURNING CIRCLES, RUNNING ROUND MY BRAIN
I start to ask him questions that require a picture based in memory. What he remembers about these week-long stage races he keeps going to all over the world. He sniffs.
He has worked through the psychological issues that follow head trauma, and the need to remember to be yourself, not forget who you are. Most important thing is to be happy. Don't wait to do it. You can't put that stuff off.
I say - The Tour of Slovenia?
"Umm. Pfff, see you're gonna get the answer of rain. A lot of these questions," he pfffs.
Fast forward to last year's Tour of Turkey. He rode that thing at the front for Liquigas-Cannondale, prepping for California.
"Long, straight, bumpy, bumpy, bumpy roads."
His five participations in the Volta a Catalunya.
"The Volta a Catalunya, that's kind of another - there's the Tour of Colorado and there's the Volta a Catalunya, those are like my two homeraces, and every year I know about every kilometer of about 85% of those roads."
The Tour of Colorado is called the USA Pro Cycling Challenge when you are doing interviews specifically about it, because that's a name that could go portable and wind up in, say, Bellingham north of Seattle next year, or in Portland the year after that, or anywhere willing the year Colorado won't pay for it anymore.
But talking about races in general, and in particular the instances of synecdoche for the larger emotional reaction to the race, it's kinda hard to fit all that into one word if you can't just say Colorado. I don't ask him.
"The Tour of Utah, that's America's hardest stage race, right? They make some pretty insane hard stuff. A race in America, but in the style of the Giro d'Italia. They really try to mix up the stages and adapt the Italian style, to test a lot of different riders," he says.
Dauphine Libere? He was second in stage eight, a nose behind Rabobank's Stef Clement and two seconds ahead of FDJ's Sebastien Joly. Tom Boonen abandoned that June day in 2009. The finish was in Grenoble.
"My first really good result as a professional after my brain injury. Redemption," he says.
He goes on about the Tour of Austria, an 8-day climbers' test in high alps meant for those excluded from France.
"Descending down the Gloss Schlockner or something," a mountain outside of Lienz that rivals Alpe d'Huez or Stelvio or Sierra Nevada except it's in Austria and it happens in July and there is no Dutch Corner.
The Gross Glockner, I say.
"Yeah," Duggan sniffs. "Just freezing cold and wet and frozen. I was so hypothermic, I was racing in the break that day. My director handed me my goretex jacket on the descent and that thing saved my life," he says.
California, where teammate Sagan won five stages and the Sumo Suits are filled with greasestains.
"California scenery. It's like the scenic route the whole way. Those Sumo Suit guys are fun, some of them go way faster than you'd think a guy in a Sumo Suit could run."
"Since that's so fresh in my mind I would say rain," and he goes on to describe a daily competition from the Tour de Pologne he posted up on twitter with teammate @iamtedking across the hotel hallway.
-What crazy polyconsonant village did we ride through today?
-Why was the lawnmower man at km83 shirtless and hauling a dog?
-Why does every km-to-go marker look like a finish line?
JUST GO HARDER FOUNDATION
Timmy puts money back into the sport, with a scholarship fund he and a friend set up for kids who want to race skis and bikes. Every year they give out two. He's pragmatic and serious about the foundation, and says the barrier for entry to cycling for most American athletes in their teens remains cost.
"My best friend and former teammate Ian McGregor and I put this together, because just looking back, it was having a coach and training and going to the races and being in the right environment and having those opportunities that made the difference. If you can just open the door for some kid who says 'This is what I really want to do', then they can make it work. A lot of times that's tough for a family to pay for," he says.
The door for Duggan was opened in Boulder by chance, and he found success. At the US Championships he took his chance again and he found success. On Saturday July 28 he lines up at the Olympics with four teammates to take a chance at the gold medal in a road race with a future unwritten and a finish yet to be defined.
"Great Britain have the homefield advantage and arguably the five strongest guys in the world right now, if you look at what they just did at the Tour. But it's a question of can they carry that form one more week without the body shutting down like it really wants to do," he says.
"A rider or a team who just grabs that race by the horns and commits to something, whatever that is, that has a better chance of working out in this race. Better than any pro tour race with bigger teams," he says.
He pauses, thinks a second, finishes his though pragmatically.
"It certainly could be a very chaotic race."
You know that old box of bike parts you've put in your closet?
In Episode #4 of the Insider podcast from the 2011 Tour de France press room in Carmaux, the finish of Stage 10, Anthony Tan ropes back in Cyclingnews’ Daniel Benson and Procycling’s Eu
In Episode #3 of the Insider podcast from the 2011 Tour de France press room atop Super Besse, Anthony Tan ropes back in Cyclingnews’ Daniel Benson and Procycling’s European Editor, Dan