On the road again: U.S. champ Timmy Duggan changes teams, plans schedule

The U.S. road champion hopes to ride the Tour for Alberto Contador and defend his stars-and-stripes jersey in 2013

BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — Even from behind, it’s obvious that it’s Timmy Duggan, waiting there on a busy Boulder sidewalk. He’s in a well-worn perch over the top tube and there is no doubt that the man waiting there is a professional, but it’s his shorts.

Duggan is in lots of black today, as it’s cold in Colorado in December, generally, but those stars on the 30-year-old’s shorts, those speak volumes. Duggan earned those shorts with panache last summer on the roads of Greenville, South Carolina, as he took a flyer off the front of a nasty breakaway and never did return to the flock.

Since then, he’s switched teams, moving from Liquigas-Cannondale to Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank. Both teams sport mega-talents, with Duggan pulling for Peter Sagan and Vincenzo Nibali on Liquigas, and the weight of Alberto Contador looming at Saxo.

Also similar for the American? Being the American on the roster. At Saxo, he’s the only one on the team. The initial move to the Italian team was a big change after coming out of the Garmin feeder programs for years, but, as Duggan says: “If there’s anything Italians know how to do, it’s race bikes. They know what they’re doing. That was a great experience. I had some of my greatest successes on that team.”

But now, there’s an entirely new experience awaiting, with Contador’s rabid riding style and the possibility to shepherd a grand-tour champion. Duggan’s top goal isn’t to win a single race, but rather help the Spaniard win one.

“My No. 1 dream goal would be to be on the Tour squad. I’m pretty sure the other 27 of my teammates are saying the same thing. That’s how it always is,” he said. “With Contador, he’s of course a favorite to win any grand tour he toes up to the start line. So to be a part of a grand-tour-winning team would be a dream come true, a career defining moment.

“Alberto, he has that talent. He gets off the couch and he’s better than most. But as we all know there’s more to being successful in sport or anything else than just talent. You have to work hard and do everything right as well. It doesn’t just come to you. And Alberto’s obviously got that whole package.”

From what Duggan’s seen, there’s a certain grace in Contador, how El Pistolero handles the media, the fans and, most of all, his teammates.

“He gives the respect to us, and we give that back to him. Because we know if we can deliver him in the right place, he can take home the whole race,” Duggan said.

Duggan will race first at the Tour Down Under, which comes early in the season in late January. That’s no problem. It keeps him out of the cookie jar.

“I like to race hard and early. It gives you a little more focus over the offseason. You don’t have a choice to be fat and lazy over the Christmas holidays and eat too many cookies. You’ve got to be ready,” he said. “I mean, you have no choice but to get it done and do it and be successful.”

He’ll also race Paris-Nice, Volta a Catalunya, the Ardennes classics. His first shot for himself will come in California at the Amgen Tour, and at the national championships.

If he doesn’t make the Tour team, Duggan is hoping to ride the Vuelta a España even if that means not racing his beloved USA Pro Challenge in Colorado. “But we’ll come to that when we get there,” he said.

This is the nature of being a domestique on a top-tier squad. The trick is working for others while hoping to sniff out an opportunity for yourself along the way. Naturally, Duggan hopes to keep the U.S. national champion kit atop his slight shoulders

“I’ll have a pretty limited team of one there. So I’ll have my work cut out for me but, with a new venue, nobody knows exactly what’s going to happen. I think the weakness of only having myself [is] less than it would be in a more predictable environment.”

This concluded Duggan’s mid-ride lunch with a reporter. He bundled back up, clipped in, and was off.