What was it like being in that break in the Olympic road race?
Who better to ask than one of the men who animated the race and did sterling work in the service of his team – United States elite road race champion, Timothy Duggan?
The Liquigas, 29 year-old pro has come a long way back from that day in the 2008 Tour of Georgia when he hit the tarmac at 100 km/h and was left with life-threatening injuries.
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.
This 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 amazing 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.
VeloVeritas caught up with Tim in his London hotel, a day or two after the road race – ‘soaking in the Olympic experience,’ as he put it.
Olympic selection must be very satisfying – but did it come as a surprise?
“It’s something I’ve been working towards this year; I planned to be going well during the selection period.
“There are other factors involved which I don’t have control over, but I did the best I could during the selection period to catch the selectors’ eye.”
Tell us about the US race plan.
“We planned to be really aggressive – not just sit there and submit to the GB programme for the race.
“It was my job to get in the early break, one of my strengths as a rider is that I can take on that sort of job – go with the early break and work hard.
“Our strategy worked out really well; we didn’t win a medal but we came close with Taylor Phinney in fourth place and we had Tejay van Garderen in the lead group, too.”
You were working like a Trojan in that break.
“In the beginning I just wanted to match the work rate of the other riders in the break.
“It was a solid break with a good representation of strong nations in there.
“When Tejay and Taylor came across, my role changed to support for them.
“Coming into the last lap of the circuit, Tejay rode up alongside me and said; ‘we really have to drive this, to stay clear.’
“There were guys looking around, waiting to see if they had team mates coming up and the peloton was only a minute behind.
“Then, the last time over Box Hill, Taylor was in the hurt locker and I had to get him back on.
“I got him back, but with driving hard for that last lap and that effort, I slid back to the peloton.”
We’ve heard some comment that the crowd was a bit out of control?
“What a spectacle, unbelievable, I couldn’t hear myself think for six hours.
“With 15 K to go I hit a spectator, he was leaning way out over the barriers to take a picture and I rode into him.
“He dropped his camera, that’s for sure!
“The thing is, when you have that many people beside the road – I heard maybe a million? – it’s always going to be an issue.
“But it’s a good problem to have.
“What was strange though; was that once you’d crossed the line you were in this quiet, sterile, secure Olympic area – it was strange after six hours of crazy crowds.
“It was such a contrast – weird.”
What did you think of the parcours?
“I thought they were good – they allowed a situation where anything could happen.
“It was a selective course, as the race went on, there were elite groups coming up.
“It could have ended with a break going away or come together for a mass sprint.”
We heard that time checks were a problem?
“The motorcycle was giving us plenty of information – so at least we thought we knew what was happening!”
What’s your opinion on the GB game plan?
“They had a plan; ‘all for Cavendish,’ they gambled and committed 100% on that – you have to respect that, but sometimes your plan doesn’t work.”
“Oh boy, yeah!
“Whatever else you may say about him, you have to admire that aggressive, exciting way he races.”
Cav slated the Aussie’s tactics.
“They certainly weren’t in the best position with just Stuey in the break.
“It may have been better for them to ride for a sprint – they gambled and ended with Stuey sixth.”
Who’s your tip for the time trial?
“I think Taylor Phinney has a good chance of a medal (he finished fourth behind Wiggins, Martin and Froome).
“I know how he’s been training and I can guarantee that no one has trained for the race in a more specific fashion than he has.
“He hasn’t been training for the road race and took fourth, so I think it bodes well for the time trial.”
What’s next for you, Timmy?
“I’m having a day or two in London with my wife then we fly back to the States to prepare for the Tours of Utah and Colorado.
“Colorado is very important to me – my home race.
“Then it’s the UCi races in Canada and then the Tours in China – and the Worlds are in there too, hopefully.”
How’s 2013 looking for you?
“There are a few conversations going on – it’s looking good!”