Former US Elite Champion Timmy Duggan has come full circle from that day back in the 2008 Tour of Georgia when he hit the tarmac at 100 km/h and was left with life-threatening injuries – it looked like his career was over…
A year later it looked as if his rehabilitation was complete with a fine second place on a Dauphiné mountain stage.
However, 2010 was blighted by health and injury issues.
Season 2011 promised to be better, boosted by the news that he’d signed for Italian ‘super squadra’ Liquigas.
After six years with Jonathan Vaughters at TIAA-Cref, Slipstream and Garmin-Transitions, Duggan decided that it was time for change.
Prior to his days with ‘JV’ he was a regular on the podium at the US U23 titles – second in the time trial in 2003 and 2004 and third in 2004 in the road race – but hadn’t taken a national title.
His first season with Liquigas saw him ride the Worlds in Copenhagen and take a top 10 on GC in the Tour of Utah.
The 2012 season kicked off in the Tour de San Luis in Argentina followed by a spell in Europe before playing a very impressive team role in Peter Sagan’s formidable Tour of California performance.
Duggan towed the bunch along for considerable lengths of time, and it was clear that he was coming into some very good shape.
In the aftermath of that race, sixth in the US elite time trial champs behind David Zabriskie boded well for the road race.
Duggan triumphed against the mighty Garmin squad with even more gilt being added to his season when he was confirmed as part of the US team for the London Olympics where he was one of the men of the race, part of the day-long break which defined the race.
Season 2013 was at the other end of the scale; his contract with the Canadian Spidertech team came to naught when the team collapsed.
And his year ended almost before it started with a bad crash in the Tour Down Under and a season spent trying to find his real form with Saxo-Tinkoff.
Despite a verbal agreement with Cannondale for 2014 the man from Colorado decided to call ‘time’ on his career.
Duggan took time chat to VeloVeritas as the races he used to ride started without him…
Did you have a ride for 2014 when you made your decision to quit?
“I had a verbal agreement with Cannondale at the time.”
How much did the fact that five teams folded at the end of 2013 influence your decision?
“That situation definitely didn’t produce many appealing options for any riders.
“For many, if your contract with your team was up at the end of 2013, it was going to be difficult to find a spot and if you did, it would likely be with a significant pay cut.
“Like everyone else in that situation, I didn’t have a ton of good options.”
I’ve heard there was a very urgent, nervous vibe in the peloton at the end of this season…
“I suppose. I was in my own world, I guess.”
Tell us about the ski coaching you’ll be doing.
“I was an alpine ski racer until I was 18 and my ski racing career truly gave me the tools I needed to be a successful cyclist.
“The Lake Eldora Racing Team is the premier skiing/cycling program in Boulder county; with the Eldora Mountain Ski Club and the SMBA mountain bike program under the same umbrella.
“There are 400 young athletes in both programs. I want to help the club continue to grow and provide the best opportunities.
“I consider myself a skier as much as a cyclist.
“I think once you are an elite athlete in one area, you can transfer to a different sport and be successful pretty quickly, as I was able to do. Anyways, EMSC is my Alma mater. I was coaching for the race team for a couple years in the winters as I was climbing the ranks of cycling.
“It was always something I wanted to get back into after my cycling career ended, so it’s refreshing to come back around full circle.”
Maybe some bike coaching work, too?
“Lake Eldora Race Team also has a successful MTB program and is involved in single track Mountain Bike Adventures.
“I plan to play a mentor-ship role in that program as well.”
Will you spend more time working on your Just Go Harder Foundation – and how is that going?
“We’re currently morphing the JGHF into primarily a legacy scholarship for LERT, but will be reaching out into the community as well for organisations like the Colorado High School Mountain Bike League and the Boulder Junior Cycling Team.”
And you’ll be in real estate – ex-Garmin pro Steve Cozza does that now…
“Yeah Cozza and I just had a great conversation last week.
“Cozza’s funny – when I talked to him he was on the way out to hunt wild boars with a bow and arrow! He hasn’t changed, ha ha.
“Anyways, real estate is really appealing to me because you are so involved with the community.
“Throughout my career, sure, my name has been very much attached to Boulder/Nederland, Colorado but I actually never get to spend much time being a part of that community, and now I can.
“I’m looking forward to helping people and sharing what an awesome place I grew up in and continue to live in.”
The 2013 season must have been tough on the morale – playing ‘catch up’ all season after your crash in the Tour Down Under?
“Yeah 2013 was mentally my toughest year.
“You know I actually got back up to 80% or so pretty quickly, but then I hit the plateau, as you do with a big injury like that.
“Working with my coach, I knew I was improving constantly, even if the gains were small, so that was some solace even if I could never put it on a result sheet. So yeah, it’s really frustrating to be stuck at mediocre all season long.
“After getting the metal hardware out of my leg this fall, I have no doubt I could be back to my best in 2014, but it’s time to move forward.”
I spoke to you after the Olympics in 2012 and you were highly motivated…
“The 2012 season was no doubt a highlight season in my career and it was exciting to be seeing the fruits of all my efforts.
“But to tell you the truth, at that point my idea was to finish out my contract with Spidertech and retire at the end of 2014.
“Even then cycling wasn’t something I wanted to do until I was 37, 38 or whatever.”
But the Spidertech collapse can’t have helped, either?
“So yeah, the collapse of Spidertech changed that plan.
“I would have had a really comfortable contract for 2014 in a year where many riders were struggling to find a place anywhere.
“So that whole fall out just bumped things forward a year I guess, for better or worse.”
I must ask – what are Bjarne Riis and Alberto Contador really like?
“I didn’t have a whole lot of regular interaction with Bjarne but when he is around he is an impressive leader with a commanding presence.”
You had nine seasons a pro – what were the biggest changes you observed, for the better and the worse?
“During my career it has been really cool to see cycling go more global, we now have some of the best races in the world in North America, Australia and Asia.
“It became less necessary to be living full time in Europe because we do so much more globe-trotting on the World Tour now.
“Often times, the enthusiasm, crowd, and energy behind the new races outside of Europe is bigger and better than the old traditional European races.”
You rode for US, Italian and Danish teams – tell us about the different ethos.
“Ha, yeah they were all really different.
“At Garmin, things were super progressive, just lots of new, potentially good ideas floating around that we would always be starting. Some things would take hold and some things wouldn’t, but that mentality of always searching for the next big idea or improvement really prevailed. Furthermore, the riders each really maintained a lot of individuality.
“At Liquigas, it was much more of an old school mentality, which is good and bad. Italians are obviously pretty good bike racers so that whole structure certainly does some things right, but I often found it a very closed minded environment. We were always a “team” and individual personality or preferences could rarely shine through.
“Saxo Bank was the epitome of a truly international, modern team. I think we had a dozen or so nationalities, all unified by one language in the workplace, and not governed by any particular nationalistic operating model, other than Danish efficiency, which was nice!
“It was homogenized in a really good way. The team environment was super strong and we would all do anything for each other on and off the bike.”
“For sure winning the national championships and making the Olympic team stand out for me.
“Having the USA Pro Challenge in my own backyard here in Colorado and being able to show of what I/we do to my hometown friends and family has been a real treat.
“And off the bike, the friends and relationships I’ve made and experiences I’ve had, I wouldn’t trade those for anything.”
Which was your favourite race and why?
“The London Olympic road race probably tops them all for me.
“For me, the Olympics just epitomises what it’s all about, why we do this, why we do sport, and what it means to the world and to culture.
“And in London, the crowd and the energy was just mind boggling. Just knowing that this is one day every four years, and for my USA teammates and I to really execute a great race in front of over a million people on the road side, it was so cool.”
Who impressed you most as a team mate?
“I’ve had several really amazing team mates, but Ted King and Ian MacGregor have impressed me the most on and off the bike.”
And as a DS?
“I actually really enjoyed working with Jonathan Vaughters during the budding years of my career, and growing with him and the Garmin team.
“It was a cool process to be a part of and I always appreciated JV’s vision and motives.”