US national champ Duggan reflects on a banner year

2008 was The Crash – brain trauma, followed by a long recovery.

2010 was The Triple – three separate spills breaking the left arm three separate times.

But 2012, well, 2012 has brought a US national road title, a trip to the Olympics, a brand new house in the Colorado Rockies and more for 29-year-old Timmy Duggan of Liquigas-Cannodale.

“2012 has been a fantastic season for me,” Duggan said at his home in Nederland, Colorado.

Fresh off of some aggressive racing at the Tour of Utah, Duggan and fellow American Ted King will be lining up next week for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in support of grand tour winners Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali.

“It’s been a great middle of the season for me, but I’m really looking forward to the USA Pro Cycling Challenge and the Canadian World Tour races. I’ve done those twice now, I’m starting to feel experienced in them. They are hard, hilly races that suit me, and I’m looking forward to doing really well there.”

Duggan will break out newly designed national champion’s kit for the Pro Cycling Challenge, with a bit more red than the one he raced in Utah.

Supporting the kids — coming full circle

Duggan grew up racing down mountains — but not a bike.

“I started my career in sport through ski racing. I didn’t even know what cycling was until I was 15, 16,” Duggan said. “I got into ski racing with my brother at an early age. We traveled all over the country racing at a pretty high level. Cycling was something I did just to stay in shape as one of many cross-training tools.”

A little dabbling in mountain bike racing proved he had a knack for the sport, and after he wrapped up ski racing after high school, he took up the road bike.

“My buddy Ian MacGregor and I cruised around the country for a year, doing the biggest races we could, getting the best results we could,” Duggan said. “That caught the eye of Jonathan Vaughters.”

Vaughters signed them both in 2005 to his upstart TIAA-CREF development team, which eventually blossomed into the Slipstream Sports program that is Garmin-Sharp today.

“It was really a great start to my career. To be able to grow with that development program put me on the ProTour a few years later,” he said.

Since founding TIAA-CREF, Vaughters has always been vocal about a zero-tolerance doping policy for his team. Last week The New York Times published a piece by Vaughters admitting to doping during his career as a professional rider, something he had often alluded to but never addressed outright.

Duggan said Vaughters’ admission “didn’t change anything” for him.

“He is part of that generation where a lot of riders had to make that decision to dope and continue their career or not,” Duggan said. “Unfortunately JV and a lot of guys had to make that decision. I never did, because of JV and his program. It was never an option for me to have to make that, and I’m super grateful.”

“From the very beginning, from when I first met JV, it was all about transparency,and maybe things happened in the past, but owning up to it and moving forward in the right direction,” Duggan said. “JV has always done that with his career and building the Slipstream program, and his influence on pro cycling now. Even with his doping admission, he’s still moving in that direction.”

For his part, Duggan is keen to help the next generation get involved in sport with the Just Go Harder Foundation he started with his old buddy MacGregor.

“Growing up I had those opportunities to become involved in ski racing and cycling,” he said. “I had access to those coaches, those mentors who really shaped my life and my career. And that meant everything to getting to this level where I’m a national champion and an Olympian. A lot of kids don’t have that opportunity, because they can’t afford it. Cycling and skiing aren’t cheap.”

Just Go Harder provides scholarships to young athletes, and raises funds in a variety of ways — such as a Punk Rock Rollerfest Wednesday night in Boulder, where Duggan, Taylor Phinney and other riders will race on rollers on stage inside a theatre.

“If we can give a few scholarships every year to open that door, the kid can take it from there,” Duggan said. “They can find that passion from that sport, and find a way to make it work. But if that door doesn’t open in the first place, it will never happen.”


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