A month and a half ago, Timmy Duggan posted a very powerful tweet and photo – the tweet simply said: “2012: Check, aaaannndd check. What an honor. #dreamscometrue”
The attached photo showed an unassuming piece of paper with two short sentences:
I will be 2012 National Champion
I can make the London Olympic Team
Duggan, who rides for the Liquigas-Cannondale team, accomplished both goals this year. He won the road race at the US Professional Road Championships in a massive solo attack and made the five-rider USA team for the Olympic road race.
“Ever since I started cycling it was a goal to be an Olympian and ever since I started cycling I wanted to by national champion – long term goals.” Duggan told podiuminsight from the Team USA lodging in England on Wednesday evening.
Check and check.
“To tick those off this year it feels really good but at the same time, it’s not so much of a surprise or surreal feeling or anything. I’ve really busting my butt for this for a long time, it feels really good to accomplish that but that’s not to say that it’s the end of the road or height of a career. For me, it’s kind of a new beginning, maybe (I) attained a new higher level and now that’s my standard, that’s my operating level now and I can move forwards from there now.”
Not only are the big goals written down on paper, but the goals drive the 29-year old. “I’m always kind of thinking about them in the back of my mind. I think it’s hard to bust out your best performance at a race or whatever sport you’re in, at any competition on a day that you haven’t been thinking about for a long time. To just to roll out of bed and bust out one of your best performance of your life, for me at least, that’s just not a normal thing but if it’s something that you’ve been working towards for a long time over the course of a year or multiple years everything you do is kind of gearing up for that one day that you’ve been looking towards for a long time. I think you’re a lot in a better position to really give out your best performance level.”
Overnight success seven years in the making. Duggan had a breakthrough season this year, putting in strong work at the front for his team at both the Amgen Tour of California and the Tour de Suisse. And, of course, that day in May when Duggan made his late race solo move to win the Stars and Stripes.
He attributes his success this year to two things, to being healthy and keeping a sharp mental focus.
“Last few of my career I’ve been unfortunate to have some pretty serious injuries, just never was able to put a long season together where I stayed healthy the whole time. It takes time to find your rhythm and get your race legs back, get your race rhythm back. I’ve been healthy for awhile and all those miles and race miles are adding up and finding my stride again.” Duggan explained.
“And, almost more so than that, it takes a whole lifetime or a career to figure it out. I’m starting to figure out mentally where I need to be in my head in a race and the things I need to focus on to be successful. I can focus on the things I need to when I want to be successful on a day and I can repeat that.”
The whole package is needed to be successful. “You have to have everything going right between your ears and you need physically everything working at one hundred percent too. Unfortunately those times were everything is firing on all cylinders is pretty rare. Me being injured a lot in the last few years really makes me realize how much you have to take advantage of those moments where everything is going well.”
Duggan learned it the hard way. Back in 2008, he suffered a broken clavicle, scapula and traumatic brain injury in a violent crash at the Tour de Georgia. The road back to the higher level was peppered with highs and lows which included more injuries. Such an experience is bound to have an impact on an athlete and a person.
“I think that the biggest thing that is different… I maybe lost a little bit that edge where cycling and feeding and training and my sport is my number one priority, I sacrificed everything for that, I don’t think that’s the case anymore. It’s a huge priority but I think my efforts and my risks are much more calculated and focused instead of just blowing off everything to shotgun-effect at cycling. It’s like no I’m not going to blow off everything, there are other things that I want that are important to me in life, like my wife, my family, my dog and I want to spend time with that too. In cycling, I’m going to focus on the things that I really want to do, where I really want to improve and really want to accomplish and not be kind of dilly-dallying in any department on either side.”
He discovered that life is about balance. “I’ve kind of just realized that the little things in life that are important to me outside of cycling, those are important too. To be a successful athlete, you have to find a balance between your sport and the rest of your life, you can’t be so one-dimensional all the time.”
Olympics. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Duggan admitted when we started our chat. “because we’re no staying in the village, we’re out in the country, out in the road race course, everything is still feeling pretty normal which is good.
After arriving in England on Monday, he along with the rest of Team USA stayed outside of the Olympic village for as long as possible.
“I think the key to success here is managing all the energy and excitement that’s there, not becoming too overwhelmed. It’s kind of nice that we’re staying out of it until the last minute. Our race is the very first day of competition, were in and out and we’re done before the whole show even starts.”
The 250-km road race takes place on Saturday where competitors become teammates and teammates become competitors.
“It’s a unique race.” agreed Duggan. “National teams and very small teams, we don’t have a whole lot of experience racing on these teams together, maybe just at the World Championships.”
And of course, the course itself is unfamiliar territory for all the riders in the field. “It’s not a Tour of Flanders or even a Tour de France stage where many of the riders have done it, maybe even 10 times before or if you’re George Hincapie maybe 17 times before. Just like a set way that everybody accepts that the race is going to play out but here at the Olympics, it’s a brand new course, a brand new race, nobody knows really what’s going to happen, it is going to be the riders making the race for sure.”
What would be a successful Olympic race for Duggan? “Obviously if we can perform well and win a medal – that would be incredible experience at the Olympics for us to come away with a medal. I think all five of us are arriving on the start line very fit and very prepared and very motivated. I think we’ll be able to adapt to any situation that arises at the race, and do our best to make a shot at a medal.”
Not done yet. Duggan plans to continue to learn and improve while still keeping his life in balance.
“I feel that I’ve kind of attained a new higher level this year, that’s the level I can improve from now. I don’t know, we’re talking about goals and looking ahead but so yes it’s important to set those goals long-range but it’s also important to just live in the moment, do your best and see where it goes from there. Sometimes, it’s important to not look that far ahead because you forget what’s right in front of you as cheesy as that sounds, we hear all the time but it’s totally true”
“I just want to keep having fun, keep improving, keep getting better every day. As soon as I stop improving, I think that’s the time I start questioning how much longer I want to keep doing the sport but I feel like I still have a lot to learn and a lot to improve and a lot more things I want to accomplish in the sport.”
Duggan will be staying on a few days at the Olympic Village after the race, to live in the moment.
“I’ll be sticking around for a couple of day to soak up the experience after that.” he said. “The first order of business will be watching the women’s race the very next day. After that, we’ll see what’s around.”