Dan Timmerman on the start line of Nationals in Bend © Larry Rosa
We at Cyclocross Magazine were initially surprised that Dan Timmerman’s name was missing from the newly-announced 2010 roster of the Richard Sachs cyclocross team, but we figured that Timmerman, who has enjoyed a great deal of success at the top end of the sport the last several seasons and is a regular on the podium in the super-competitive New England region and beyond, had decided to ride for another squad. We were completely caught off guard when we learned that he had decided to hang up his cyclocross shoes and step back from bike racing all together. A recent Facebook status update confirmed it: “Dan Timmerman is no longer in a relationship with bike racing.”
Timmerman was never your typical bike racer although, as he told Cyclocross Magazine, he did his best to fit into the clean-cut roadie scene for a while. His talent can’t be denied, nor can his quest for a personal connection to the world – and to himself. Cyclocross Magazine caught up with Timmerman for this exclusive interview as he bids “adieu for now” to the bike racing world.
by Josh Liberles
Cyclocross Magazine: It seems like you’ve had quite varied experiences with cycling, through many disciplines. Tell us how you got into cycling and later cyclocross.
Dan Timmerman: I got into cycling young. When I was 13, my brother got into mountain biking, so I tagged along with him and his friends. We eventually started racing the regional races on some local teams. Toward the end of the 90s I had gotten serious about cross country racing as a Semi-Pro. I also raced a bit of downhill since my brother had switched over and was racing as a Pro on the gravity side of things. I dabbled a bit with cyclocross racing, but it was just local events that I would race on my mountain bike. Mostly I concentrated on the cross country.
All through my years as a Junior I was told I was going to be the “next big thing.” In ’01-’02, I was going down to Tucson to train for the winters and becoming frustrated with not living up to that potential. Money was pulling out of MTB racing in those years, and I was also frustrated with not getting anything to show for good results. I walked away for a while.
Bikes are a big part of my life in general, and I still rode a lot. I commuted, rode mountain bikes and, most importantly, I toured. I toured a lot, lived on my bike for the spring and summer of 2003. I rode the coast of California, across Washington state twice, and across the US. That was a very special time where I took a big step toward getting in touch with myself.
Well, I came back and found myself in pretty decent shape after that. I raced ’cross locally here in New York on my mountain bike and got a job working for Glenn Swan at his bike shop in Ithaca, NY, for the following summer. I decided that, since I was going to be back there, working in a shop, I might as well race road races locally just for fun. I raced with a local team as a Cat 3 and had a great time. I don’t know why or how, but whatever happened I started going fast. Maybe it was the time off, then the long, long hours touring. Maybe I was just having fun. I don’t know, but by the end of ’04 I was a Cat 1 and had a spot on Fiordifrutta Elite Cycling Team. I raced there the following two years with much success. I picked up ’cross for real during this time. Then I went Pro on the road in ’07, raced professionally two years on the road and switched to ’cross exclusively for ’09.
CXM: How did you go from clean-cut pro roadie with Kodak-Sierra Nevada to super-scruffy ’crosser?
Timmerman, off and running away with the 2009 Verge New England series © Natalia McKittrick | Pedal Power Photography
DT: Instinctually, my life has always been following something. Maybe this goes for everyone, but we are constantly diverted off track by our logical minds and everyday life commitments. Some stay there for longer than others. If my life were to manifest in the form of a bike racer, it would look exactly as it did last fall as a scruffy ’crosser. My years as a clean-cut roadie would be the embodiment of forces pulling me away from my natural progression. I did my best to fit in during that time.
CXM: What are you no longer getting out of bike racing, in terms of personal enjoyment or fulfillment, that you used to? What’s changed?
DT: To put it into as manageable of an explanation I can, that may sound brazen, our species is on a path of self destruction. We are blinded by convenience and eased by the status quo of exploitation. So you have to step back and really look at our situation. I have always felt like my participation [in bike racing] has been more a part of the problem than I like, and not enough a part of the solution. I have never been one for complacency. A bicycle isn’t perfect, but it could be a very useful tool toward better things. Hopping in a car to get to a plane to fly to a car to drive to ride a bike with cars following me is something that has always felt askew to me. It seems to take away from the simplicity of gliding along on two wheels. More often than not, these travels took me to a box in suburbia with a little window over an air conditioner that I could look out of and see the exact same thing that I saw the week before 3,000 miles away. When sent out into the live world during our competitions, all I could really look at and take in was the skinny tire in front of me.
So the commitments of the “logical mind” pulled me off path for a bit. I don’t regret it, and I want to make clear I don’t denounce anyone, I don’t condemn anything. I had a great time and I enjoyed the successes I had in cycling. The spirit of competition was invigorating and our cycling community is full of really amazing people with whom I have enjoyed connecting. We exhibit a camaraderie that seems rare in sport these days. It’s these things that kept me around so long. But nevertheless, for me, it’s time to get back on track.
CXM: Do you see this as a break or “retirement” from the sport? Do you imagine that you’ll compete on a more local, less serious level just for kicks?
DT: I see it as “retirement.” But history has shown that I cannot predict where I will end up very well. Who knows? I can say that since the decision I have never looked back. I have embraced it fully and just the weight off my shoulders has allowed me to head where I really need to go.
CXM: A pretty broad, open-ended, metaphorical question here, but since we’re talking about philosophical life changes, tell me where you’ve come from and where you think you’re headed. What’s next for you?
DT: I’m hoping to get re-connected. Our species and its immediate predecessors had this way of life that we lived for a couple million years, connected and one with ourselves and everything around us. Just in the last few hundred years we’ve abruptly severed all ties with life around us and with the knowledge of how we fit into it. I have always felt there is a void and unknowingly been seeking a rediscovery, but never really had an outlet or path to follow.
Fortunately, there still exist practitioners who have preserved this wisdom in some way. It may have come directly from the wisdom of natives [and been] passed down, or even in bits and pieces of acquired knowledge that get pieced together with experience, but thankfully it still exists. And fortunately these folks are often compelled to pass the knowledge on. One such person is Mike Douglas at Maine Primitive Skills School, from whom I recently received mentoring. His wisdom is vast and I can’t describe the respect I have for his quest to pass on and preserve what was given to him. I feel like I have stumbled upon what I have always been looking for and, because of it, I feel like more of a complete person than ever before. I hope to continue down this path, wherever it takes me. So, good bye bike racing. You served me well. Thank you to everyone who cared to watch me, everyone who supported my endeavors, and the many who provided me with all the priceless mentoring I received along the way.