For the second straight year Timmy Duggan infiltrated the break of the day during the USA Pro Challenge's queen stage. Last year's escape in the penultimate stage from Golden to Boulder, with a finish atop Flagstaff Mountain, was the hottest ticket of the race as every Colorado-based rider wanted to shine on a memorable parcours in front of huge crowds. Duggan, then riding for Liquigas-Cannondale in his national champion's kit, threw his hat in the ring for stage glory and ultimately placed fifth on the day.
This year, riding for Team Saxo-Tinkoff, Duggan as well as teammate Michael Rogers made the early 10-man break in the stage from Steamboat Springs to Beaver Creek. The Saxo-Tinkoff pair's goal was to ride in support of GC contender Rory Sutherland, winner of the 2012 queen stage to Flagstaff Mountain, who started the day in 11th overall, 41 seconds behind leader Lachlan Morton (Garmin-Sharp).
After an opening flurry of attacks, kicked off by none other than Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Sky) and Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Leopard), the right combination of riders ultimately consolidated off the front after 20km of racing.
"It was the queen stage of the race, definitely hard terrain, everybody wants to be in the breakaway and tactically it's nice to have some guys in the breakaway," Duggan told Cyclingnews. "It was certainly a high-powered break there, with a lot of world championship medals and jerseys in there. It was good to have both me and Mick in there, plus two guys from Sky [Danny Pate and Kanstantsin Siutsou]."
Others on the attack included Larry Warbasse (BMC), Davide Villella (Cannondale), KOM leader Matt Cooke (Jamis-Hagens Berman), Serghei Tvetcov (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda), a late-bridging Jason McCartney (Bissell) and Tony Gallopin (RadioShack-Leopard). It would be Gallopin, the only GC threat in the move, which kept the peloton on its toes.
"Unfortunately with Gallopin in there, he was high up on GC, the peloton didn't want to give us too much of a leash. It made for a hard day for all of us."
With about 60km remaining and the break's lead dropping rapidly, cooperation in the escape began to crumble.
"Coming into the finale, Siutsou from Sky attacked and started to break the breakaway apart, but Mick was really strong and hung in there to the very end."
Rogers would be the final rider from the break to be caught, on the upper slopes of Bachelor Gulch in the closing kilometres. Sutherland, meanwhile, took over for Saxo-Tinkoff and would finish 14th on the day and 9th on general classification.
"Hopefully he can have a good time trial tomorrow and the stage on Saturday anything can happen so that will be a really tactical stage," said Duggan. "That's all in my training grounds so I know that route well."