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London Olympics: U.S. road cyclists keep tactics secret

July 27, 2012|By Diane Pucin
  • Chris Horner leads fellow competitors into a turn in the 2011 Amgen Tour of California.
Chris Horner leads fellow competitors into a turn in the 2011 Amgen Tour… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

LONDON — Timmy Duggan, who is part of the five-man U.S. men's road cycling team that will compete Saturday in the London Olympics' first cycling event, had an epic description of what it takes to be a top-level men's road racer.

"Cycling takes all these things in sport," Duggan said. "You have to have the endurance of a marathon racer or Siberian husky. For about five minutes of the race you have to have the strength of a cage fighter and you have to have the reactions of a fighter pilot." Duggan said this even though he's never owned a Siberian husky, fought in a cage or acted as a pilot in a fight.

But Duggan, 29, is a survivor.

In 2007, during a race in Georgia, Duggan crashed and suffered a severe head injury while making a descent. His family was told Duggan was likely to have permanent brain damage. And yet, four months after the crash, Duggan was back on his bike and now he's an Olympian.

So is Chris Horner, who is 40 and finally making his first Olympics appearance. Horner, winner of the 2011 Amgen Tour of California, said he attended his first Olympics trials in Allentown, Pa., when he was 19. "You know, back then, yeah, I really wanted to make the team but when you're that young, you just assume there's going to be a next time. I didn't figure the next time would come when I was 40."

Horner, Taylor Phinney and Tejay van Garderen were the three Americans who rode the entire three-week Tour de France, which ended July 22. Van Garderen, 23, finished fifth overall and earned the jersey awarded to the best young rider.

Maybe because he is the elder statesman, Horner was willing to predict one non-American favorite. While most of the British fans will be rooting for countryman Bradley Wiggins, who won the 2012 Tour de France, or British sprint specialist Mark Cavendish, Horner was touting 22-year-old Peter Sagan of Slovakia, who won five of the eight stages of the 2012 Amgen Tour of California.

"Sagan's going to impact this race dramatically," Horner said. "He's the biggest threat Cavendish has. Unless somebody destroys the field on a climb at some point, I would put Sagan down as the absolute favorite."

That's as much tactical information as the Americans wanted to share. In fact, Van Garderen said, no team tactics have even been discussed. That way, he said, "We don't have to lie to you when you ask us what we've planned." As Horner said, "You'll just have to watch."

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