American Timmy Duggan will be making his Olympic debut in the men's road race on Saturday as the reigning US Pro champion. Although many pundits are predicting a bunch sprint heavily in home hero Mark Cavendish's favour, Duggan sees ample opportunity for himself and his Team USA squad in what he calls a "dynamic course".
Together with Taylor Phinney, Chris Horner, Tyler Farrar and Tejay van Garderen, Duggan has made the rounds along the course which heads from the center of London to Surrey, before hitting the 15.5km Box Hill circuit, which the men will contest nine times before the return trip to the finish in The Mall. It has left him and the team mulling over a variety of race scenarios and concluding that the team is well suited to the course.
"We've got a Swiss army knife of a team - we're not putting our eggs into once basket," Duggan told Cyclingnews. "We have been riding around the course kind of batting around some ideas. It's an interesting course. It's not like there is just one section of the race where something is going to happen and everyone is going to be prepared for that. It's a dynamic course and it's going to make for a dynamic race. I think our team reflects that. We'll be able to kind of play our cards in a breakaway or split situation or a sprint in the end, however it plays out.
"On paper, it seems like the British will ride their butts off for Cavendish and it will be a sprint, but he still only has four guys riding for him in a 250km race. The other teams won't want to help them and go to the line with Cavendish. There are no radios, so that makes it harder to know what's going on. The nature of the course is it's so easy to get out of sight - the break goes and it's just gone, you can't see it, as opposed to a lot of courses have wide open roads until the finish. I think it will be tougher even if there are two teams working together to really build momentum and bring it back quickly."
Duggan is one of the unsung heroes of American cycling, dedicating his career to selfless, slavish dedication to helping his teammates. His work at the front of the Amgen Tour of California for five-time stage winner Peter Sagan on the Liquigas-Cannondale team caught the attention of the Olympic selectors, but it was his solo victory in the US Pro championships in Greenville, South Carolina that sealed the deal.
"During the selection time in the spring and early summer, I did my best to show that I was a good worker, and that I could also win a race when I'm racing for myself," he said. "I showed my best. With a five-man team, of course you're going to leave good guys at home, so I wasn't stressed about it, I wasn't going to cry if I wasn't on the team. I knew I did my best at the right time, and did everything I could do. It worked out well, I'm on the team!"
Duggan's chances for a medal may be slim, but they are not zero as he predicts that the early breakaways might just be able to stay away. "I think one of my best functions in the race will be covering the early moves, and if it works out - if that or part of that move is really influential in the finish, that's great for me."
At the national championships, Duggan showed the strength, timing and tactical nous to get into the right moves and to foil competitors who might be more well known, with tenacity and strength. But if the early break fails, then he is confident the rest of the team can come through.
"We've obviously got some super firepower in the team for the finish - Tyler's one of the fastest finishers in the world, Taylor's been training really well. Chris Horner is a proven contender, and Tejay is coming off an incredible ride in the Tour."
While three of the five Americans raced the Tour de France ahead of the Olympic Games, Duggan was surprisingly left off Liquigas' team for the Tour. With his contract up at the end of the season, he may look for another team which will afford him the opportunity to race in the Tour, but says his destination is not yet known.
"All I can do is ride my best, do my best job and if it doesn't work out... maybe on another team I'll have other opportunities, but having a successful season this year has kind of opened some doors for me," he said. An Olympic medal would certainly help in the negotiations.