Duggan in Utah: The last day is my day

The U.S. road champion is back for a better GC ride in Colorado and is taking aim at August with the lessons learned in 2011

OGDEN, Utah (VN) — This is Timmy Duggan’s time.

The recently crowned U.S. professional road champion did his work at the Amgen Tour of California taking monster pulls, nailing down breaks and lining up Peter Sagan, his Liquigas-Cannondale teammate, for five wins.

Duggan is a consummate teammate and a gifted rider in his own right, as he proved with his solo win for his first national title in Greenville, South Carolina, a week later.

He’s just back from a stint in London at the Olympics, where he competed in the road race, making the early breakaway, and “played tourist” for a few days with his wife. But the high peaks of Colorado and Utah are where the Boulder-bred Duggan belongs. Now, he’ll see what he can do in high-altitude stage races in August, where it’s likely he’ll be riding for himself.

“I’ll be at my best, and I’ll talk with the team when we meet up in Utah,” Duggan told VeloNews before the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, which runs this Tuesday to Sunday. “These races really suit me. And I’m on good form.

“I’m adapting quickly.”

Adapting, in this sense, means adapting to the altitudes of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains and a number of ranges across Colorado. Duggan lives in Nederland, just above Boulder, Colorado, but he’s had little time at home this season. As a cyclist, the upcoming weeks are huge for the workman-like Duggan, a chance to show what he can do in the GC ranks.

“This whole period with the Olympics, Utah, Colorado, Canada [WorldTour races in September]… I’m really putting all of my eggs in that basket to be at my best,” Duggan said.

“I think it’s going to be a really, really good week of racing — the course is super tough. There’s some really hard climbs… it’s going to be a real bike race,” he said of the Utah clash.

Duggan is looking to better his sixth-place on the general classification in Utah in 2011, and there’s reason to think he can move up, even in a field that includes defending champion Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan) and Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp). Duggan is a strong climber and this Utah race is long on climbing. He will have to fight hard though — his team only has six riders coming to Utah, two less than most of the teams. That’s something the Liquigas team must absorb in the team time trial, held on a motor speedway outside of Salt Lake City in the heat and wind.

Duggan will have been at altitude longer than some of his competitors and will draw on his experience from last year. He came into the Utah race “hot,” but flattened out in Colorado, by his own admission. The U.S. champ could only muster 43rd in Colorado at the USA Pro Challenge after turning his attention to supporting Daniel Oss and Elia Viviani early in the race.

This year, Duggan said he plans to peak over Utah’s final two days — the hardest of the race — and carry that form a state over into Colorado.

The fact that there are two elite stage races, over three weeks, at altitude, is daunting for anyone, even a Colorado native like Duggan.

“That’s just never really been done before,” he said. “We learned a lot about ourselves [in 2011]… For me, I learned a lot about myself and my physiology and my preparation, and I’ll apply that.”

Duggan has tapped Danielson, Horner and Leipheimer as danger men.

The parcours in Utah will be challenging, to say the least. The final two days see massive climbs, one uphill finish and a final-day climb up Empire Pass that ascends 3,000 feet in 10 kilometers. Empire Pass sees sustained sections at 20 percent gradient, and it’s a quick descent into Park City, meaning whoever makes the selection up Empire is likely to stay clear. Duggan has stage 6 — the last — circled.

“The last day is my day,” Duggan said. “It’s not a summit finish, and it’s the last day of the race. People are tired. It’s more likely the break can go to the finish on a day like that… I think my best day will be at the end of the week.”