Timmy Duggan Races Full Circle to Golden with the USA Pro Cycling Challenge

by Mary Topping on July 19, 2011

Meet Timmy Duggan, who is, “full gas for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.” Born and now living in Boulder, Colorado, Timmy is a member of the Italian Liquigas-Cannondale Pro Cycling Team and twenty-eight years old. He began racing professionally in 2005 with the Slipstream Sports program and fought to return to the sport after sustaining a traumatic brain injury in a crash in 2008. Timmy shares his objectives for the up-coming race, why Golden is a special place for him, and how his wife contributes to his limitless motivation. Come over to Pit Row on August 28th in Golden and give Timmy a cheer.

Timmy Duggan

What does having a race of this caliber in your home state mean for you?
It’s super cool. I have been racing my whole career in Europe. My competitors get to do a world-class race in their backyard all the time, but I’ve never had that. I kind of live a whole world away in Colorado. So it’s really cool to have this kind of a world class field right in my own backyard in a place where I know every single pothole on the route; that will be a definite advantage for me and I’m really excited to show the cycling world Colorado.

Do you have special thoughts or memories related to Golden?
My very first road bike race ever was the Lookout Mountain Hillclimb; that must have been about 2001. I think I was 5th place or something in the lowest amateur category. But it was the first race I did, the first mountain I ever climbed really on a road bike. It’s cool to really come full circle in Golden, to have essentially started my road racing career there and then be at the top of the road racing world at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge when the final stage rolls out of Golden and up Lookout Mountain.

You recently tweeted about reconning Lookout Mountain. What are your thoughts about the final stage and how you see it unfolding?
With that big mountain in the beginning there’s certainly potential for some fireworks. But it’s a long way to go to the finish, so depending on how the riders want to race and how aggressive we are, it could be a sprint finish despite the fact there’s a big mountain in the way. It’s an interesting parcours [route], and really anything can happen and I think it’s a good choice for the final day of the stage race. It will keep the riders guessing as well as the fans guessing until the very last day. Also with a whole week of racing at altitude and some big climbs before that people are going to show up on the start line in Golden pretty tired. And if there’s some motivated and strong people that want to make a big difference up Lookout Mountain, there’s not going to be anywhere to hide riding up Lookout Mountain straight out of the start, so that will be a good opportunity to be aggressive.

Do you think that all the high altitude in this race gives an advantage to someone like you who lives at high altitude?
Yes, obviously it’s definitely going to be a huge factor. It’s not even an altitude that certainly a lot of the European riders have been at; almost the whole race is at 8,000 to 9,000 feet, which is higher than the highest mountain pass in Europe pretty much. So just to have everything at that high altitude is a pretty big factor, let alone when we do the Vail time trial or Cottonwood Pass, Independence Pass – those go up to 12,000 feet so that’s just a huge, huge difference. It makes a difference in the moment when you are racing over those passes and I think it changes the rider’s ability to recover from the efforts at altitude.

What are your objectives for the race and how are you preparing?
I would like to attain a top five overall result. I’m definitely really aiming for this race, almost more so than any other race during the season because it is my home race. It’s a great opportunity for me and I think I will be better prepared than anyone else, for the altitude and for the climbs, just because I’ve been kind of subconsciously preparing for this my whole life really, just living here and growing up here. I kind of have those climbs and the altitude in my blood. I also have no racing all of the middle of summer so I’m just home in Colorado for the first time in a long time and able to prepare specifically and spend some time at altitude, and really arrive on the starting line ready to go.

About the objectives of my team Liquigas-Cannondale at Colorado. At the moment we’ll have a really diverse squad, some guys fresh off the Tour de France, so they’ll definitely have the potential to be really on form; if they can recover well and adapt to the altitude they’ll really be flying. And we’ve also got a couple of good sprinters that are really suited to the kind of courses we’ll have in Colorado – they’re hilly but might still come down to a fairly large group to sprint it out. So we’ve got a couple of guys that can get over some hard mountains but still have a really good sprint at the end. It sounds like Basso will be there. A lot of it depends on how everyone comes out of the Tour [de France].

What do you most anticipate and fear about the race?
I think the Cottonwood Pass, Independence Pass is definitely going to be a pretty amazing stage. On paper it doesn’t look too crazy. We certainly do harder climbs in Europe and a number of times but the length of those climbs combined with the crazy, crazy altitude and then the fact that Cottonwood is dirt, those are three things that just make it impossible to hide. I think there’s going to be some fireworks, and then you’ve also got our typical 3 pm thunderstorms high in the mountains of Colorado, so we can have some pretty gnarly weather for 15 minutes as well.

Where will you be racing between now and the USAPCC?
I’ll be at the Tour of Utah. It’s actually a really similar race to Colorado, a lot of climbing, a lot of high altitude. It will be a great final tune-up before the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.

You frequently mention how much you miss your wife when you are away racing. What role does she play in your motivation?
A lot. The biggest thing is she just keeps me grounded, realizing that there is more to life than just sport and bike racing. Even if you have a bad day on the bike, she just makes me realize that there’s more to it than that and helps me to forget the bad times on the bike, but also focus on the good times, and just gives me an ability to kind of let go and not care so much, not put so much pressure on myself in bike racing, because I know I have the support outside of the sport always waiting for me. [Timmy and Loren were high school sweethearts. They alpine ski raced on the same team.]

On your Just Go Harder Foundation website, it mentions you began your cycling career by creating your own teams, and relying on the support of others, including a bike shop and your parents. You traveled in your parents’ minivan and slept in the back. You delivered pizzas at night to help fund your racing. Is that a typical path Americans who become pros follow?
I think it’s maybe more typical in America than it would be in Europe. For the most part for Americans to become a cyclist, it’s something they fall into after doing another sport or after an injury or something like that. There’s just not the infrastructure in America at the junior level, at the grassroots level, to provide that support, that foundation, so it’s kind of something that people happen into later in life. Whereas in Europe, it’s the opposite. Kids are on the bike when they’re eight years old and that’s all they think about when they’re eight years old. All of my teammates on Liquigas, they’re all junior national champions, or junior world champions and they’ve been excelling at the sport since before I even knew what a bike was, so it’s kind of a different culture.

I kind of kick-started my career when I started with the US national team in Belgium. I lived over in Belgium, so I was part-time with the US national team and part-time with Jonathan Vaughters and the TIAA-CREF team. So I went back and forth a little bit, but being able to live in Europe for a bit and race in Belgium and all over Europe, that was absolutely integral to laying the foundation for my career. And that’s still something that’s in place for young cyclists – to make the leap over to Europe and have some support over there.

How can our readers help the Just Go Harder Foundation? [Timmy began the Just Go Harder Foundation with Ian MacGregor, former pro-cyclist. The foundation is a youth scholarship fund that enables deserving kids to enrich their lives through mentorship and participation in cycling and skiing sports.]
We came out with our own custom Just Go Harder cycling clothes from Panache Cyclewear, so you can order a Just Go Harder jersey and shorts. We take donations however you want, via PayPal. If you have any old sports equipment, you can donate it to The Pros Closet, an EBay consignment store in Boulder. They will donate the proceeds from that sale to the Just Go Harder Foundation. Right now the Just Go Harder Foundation is really small. We’re just starting to increase the network of people that we can reach out and touch and have access to. If we can give a couple of $500 scholarships away per year, that’s what we want to do right now. [To visit the foundation’s website, go to http://justgoharder.com/jgh-foundation.]

What would you like folks just learning about pro-cycling to know about the sport?
It’s a really unique sport in that an individual wins, but it wouldn’t be possible for that individual to win were it not for his seven teammates working for him throughout the five hours of the race, to deliver him to the finish line ready to make his move in a fresh as possible state. A lot of that work to have that leader at the finish line really goes unnoticed and unseen, but it’s absolutely critical to winning the race, and to the strategy of the race, and to how it all plays out.
The other thing [aside from the mountains] that really drives and inspires me in this sport is speed. That feeling, just going fast, is what I really missed most during my time off the bike the last few years from my head injury and 3 broken arms last season! That’s definitely the most addictive quality of the sport and what makes it so fun!

What’s your definition of success in life?
That’s a heavy question. I think if you’re happy, especially if you can make a living doing what you enjoy and pursuing your passion, I think that’s the definition. However you need to live so that you put your happiness first, if you attain that, then I think that’s the definition of success. I don’t think it has anything to do with making $10 million, but if you can live where you want to live and you can surround yourself with the people you want to be with and you can do the activities you love to do, that’s what I consider successful.
[For additional responses from Timmy, visit the author’s blog at http://provelopassion.wordpress.com/]

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