Timothy Duggan quite literally knows every inch of the USA Pro Challenge route.
A 30-year-old Boulder native, he learned to cycle on the mountain passes of Colorado. As a professional, he's gained a reputation as a hard-charging rider. Along with titles like the 2012 U.S. National Road Championship, he won the “Most Aggressive” jersey in the inaugural 2011 Pro Challenge. Last year, he raced for the U.S. in the London Olympics.
In January, he crashed and broke a leg in the Santos Tour Down Under. But he's been getting back to full-speed this summer, racing for Team Saxo-Tinkoff, which is led by Tour de France winner Alberto Contadour during the third annual USA Pro Challenge.
Duggan was racing with Saxo-Tinkoff in Europe all summer. He came back to his home in Nederland at the beginning of August to acclimate and start training for his home-state race.
“I've got a good couple weeks at home to soak up the altitude and get ready for the Pro Challenge,” he said in a conversation with Time Out two weeks before race day in Aspen.
Andrew Travers: How did the recovery from your crash go?
Timothy Duggan: It sucked to tell you the truth. But it's not something I haven't been through before. I've been through it a few times. That's the name of the game when you're an elite athlete. You've got a lot of injuries and you've got to get back to100 percent. This time was no different, breaking my leg in January. It's been a long, difficult road, but now I'm at that plateau where you're getting those last few percentage points back. But at the highest level, that's all that matters is that top end. So things are coming along and going in the right direction, so that gives me confidence. But it never happens as fast as you want it to.
AT: A lot of us very amateur riders catch the fear after a crash and get overly cautious. As a pro, do you deal with that at all?
TD: Yeah, totally. I crashed coming into a roundabout. So I definitely might be taking an extra two-tenths of a second thinking about my line and my speed going into a roundabout. Of course you're aware of it when you have a traumatic experience like that. But you go through about 100 little corners [during a race] and they almost always work out. So it's no different.
AT: Growing up in Boulder and training out of Nederland, do you feel like you get a home team advantage in the USA Pro Challenge?
TD: For sure. This race being in my own backyard, I know every meter of the route. So it's certainly an advantage. It also helps getting some extra time at home, getting used to the altitude after being off in Europe. So I'm excited and prepared as best as I can be for this year.
AT: What's important for you to succeed in these first two days in Aspen — in the circuit race and the ride up Independence Pass to Breckenridge?
TD: It's key to do well those first two days in Aspen. You need to be on it. You need to be warmed up and ready to go. You can't take a day or two to ease into the race the way you can in some other stage races. I don't think the race is going to be won overall on the first stage in Aspen, but it can certainly be lost. If you have a bad day at altitude it can go backwards pretty quick. So it's going to be important to be all guns blazing in Aspen.
AT: After that what are some key points over the seven days of the Pro Challenge?
TD: The Vail time trial is going to be important, as well as the summit finish in Beaver Creek. That's going to be explosive. We're going to see some huge fireworks there. Other than that, all the stages are not super straight-forward - not necessarily a giant climb or a guaranteed sprint finish, but anything can happen given the weather we get in the afternoons in Colorado - the afternoons of cold and rain and snow, who knows what - so the terrain on all the stages allows for anything to happen.
AT: Who is the toughest competition this year? Are Froome and van Garderen the guys to beat? How does Team Saxo-Tinkoff match up?
TD: Chris and Richie [Porte, his teammate] and Team Sky, coming off a Tour de France win, they both have incredible form. So they're definitely going to be contenders, but it will depend on whether they let their guard down after the Tour and if they've adjusted to the altitude. It can go either way for a lot of contenders like that — everybody kind of takes a deep breath after the Tour de France and a lot of riders start coasting to the end of the season. You can also use momentum from the Tour de France to really have a strong end of season. So we'll probably see a little of both of that in the field. I think Tejay van Garderen is going to be hungry for a win here. He's spent a lot of time in Aspen — it's a home course for him almost as much as it is for me. His Tour de France didn't go as well as he wanted, so I know he's going to be hungry and ready to go. And my team, Saxo-Tinkoff, we're bringing Mike Rogers, who was road captain for Alberto Contadour on his Tour bid and been riding well all season. He got second in the Tour of California. It's a race that suits him and we'll be supporting him for sure.
AT: Why have Americans done so well in the Pro Challenge?
TD: You kind of see that everywhere. Any race, in any part of the world, the hometown hero always has an extra gear on everybody else. Just last week I was in the Tour of Poland and my teammate Rafa Majka, he's Polish, and he was absolutely flying. Being in your hometown with your friends and family out there definitely gives you an extra motivation. At the Pro Challenge, the crowd and enthusiasm on the side of the road blows away any race — other than the Tour de France and the Olympics — out of the water. There's just so much energy on the side of the road and you can really feed off of that.