Timothy Johnson. © Tom Olesnevich

Timothy Johnson. © Tom Olesnevich

Tim Johnson (Cannondale – Cyclocrossworld.com) had a dream 2009/2010 ‘cross season, culminating with a National title and a 14th place at the World Championships in Tabor, Czech Republic. The transition between his ‘cross and the beginning of road season, where he’s the captain of the UnitedHealthcare Pro cycling team presented by Maxxis, was a crazy-short five days, from ‘cross Worlds to road team training camp. But Johnson, a veteran of both sports, may have found the perfect method to juggle it all and still have plenty of fun doing it. Undoubtedly his long cyclocross season has left him with more fitness and certainly more top-end training than most of the others in the peloton something he’ll have the chance to prove this weekend in the team’s first race, the MERCO Cycling Classic in Merced, CA. His unorthodox winter approach may have him with good freshness as well. We checked in with Tim for more insights on his eighth time at Worlds and his upcoming road season.

by Josh Liberles

You’re already wrapping up your road team’s training camp in Tucson, and you’re barely done with the ‘cross season!  Tell us about that transition.
I had five days between Worlds and our team training camp in Tucson, Arizona. In between, we had the season-ending party for the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com team in Beverly, Massachusetts, did a photo shoot for a magazine in New York City, then off to the training camp for UnitedHealthcare presented by Maxxis.

It actually worked out really well, I had great legs for the camp.

Johnson showed determination despite a large gap. Surf City Cyclocross Series Finale, Aptos High School, 1/10/10. © Cyclocross Magazine

Johnson shakes out the cobwebs and unveils his new kit at Surf City Cyclocross Series Finale, Aptos High School, 1/10/10. © Cyclocross Magazine

So you had an unorthodox approach to the time between Nationals and Worlds. What did you do and why do you think that suited you?
After Nats, I took a break, had my wisdom teeth out the following morning, and pretty much laid around for the next six days. Then I cross-country skied a bit, then started riding after 10 days.

By January 1st, I was riding outside again in Santa Barbara. I did the Surf City cyclocross race on the 8th or 9th, a 70+ mile, all-day mountain bike ride in Malibu with some friends, and some fun dirt road rides in Santa Barbara. I did my specific cyclocross training on my Computrainer. I just had less stress, and I used that freshness to train harder than I normally would’ve.

Where did you get the idea to train this way instead of heading off to Europe in between and following a more traditional calendar?
I did something similar last year, although I didn’t go to Worlds. After Nats in Kansas City, I went to Canada and New Hampshire for cross-country skiing, did some Computrainer workouts to restart pedaling, then three weeks in Santa Barbara leading into my road camp. Day five of road camp was the same day as Worlds and I had great legs, I was flying. I was in the chat with Andrew Yee, providing commentary for Cyclocross Magazine‘s online coverage of Worlds. I had great form while the race was going on, and I was wishing that I was there racing. That’s actually what planted the idea.

It may not be for everybody, it’s difficult to get the motivation to train during that break, but I definitely plan to do it again. I’ll change some things I do so I’ll be faster for Worlds in St Wendel than I was this year.

Cyclocross is a sport I love, and with the change in the road season calendar, it’s possible to get into it even more and do it again next year even better. Now that the Tour of California has moved from February to early May, there’s no conflict between ‘cross Worlds and the start of my road training camps and the beginning of my road season.

Tell us briefly how you’ve progressed on the World stage
I’ve done eight Cyclocross World Championship events: ’96 – 2000, 2002, 2008 and 2010. I was 56th and 52nd in my first two, then tenth and third in the U23s. A lot of people don’t know about those first couple of not-so-great results. That’s something I mention to the kids doing it now – just get out there and do your best, and you’ll develop over time.

Tim Johnson grits it out to become the highest US finisher at the 2010 Cyclocross World Championships in Tabor, Czech Republic.  © Joe Sales

Tim Johnson grits it out to become the highest US finisher at the 2010 Cyclocross World Championships in Tabor, Czech Republic. © Joe Sales

OK – tell us about the race in Tabor!

I had a pretty good race, not amazing. I would’ve been pumped with a top ten, and jumping up and down for top five. I was so close to a top ten, I’ve been asking myself what went into those missing 15 seconds, which would have had me there. I had a third or fourth row start, had some small problems at the start and for a split second missed clipping in, so I lost a couple of seconds out of the gate. I was sitting in 30-something coming through early, that could easily have been twenty-something with a better start.

The race was really aggressive, with banging and slamming. I had a couple of good battles with Marco Fontana, the Italian Cannondale rider who ended up in 11th. Of course, it was really fast, you have to keep on the gas, make up ground wherever you can and constantly hold people off. I was passing a whole bunch of people throughout the race, including Niels Albert, which was a little surprising. I thought he’d have a bad race, he looked terrible when I saw him riding a couple of days before, and he rolled up to the start line on 30mm Dugast Typhoons, for some reason (in contrast Johnson raced on 34mm Dugast Rhinos). Late in the race, I was with Erwin Vervecken and Kevin Pauwels for a while, just trying to go as fast as I could. I made it as far up as 12th, but bobbled going into a corner. Marco’s the only guy who passed me and stayed in front of me.

What was it like having the entire Cannondale – Cyclocrossworld.com team at Worlds?
We’re so lucky to have our crew and support, Zipp, SRAM, Stu (Thorne) and Cyclocrossworld.com. Our team accounted for three out of the five guys representing our country, and that’s not lost on us. All that pressure on us makes it easier to try harder and have the best race possible.

The good US riders tend to max out on Cat 2 UCI points and then get into Cat 1 points. If you hit one World Cup and do well, that would make all the difference (for start position at the World Championships). There’s a limit to what you can do for points outside of Europe. Next season the Cannondale – Cyclocrossworld.com team will make a trip to Europe and target one or two World Cups in the fall to try and get those points. The other important thing for me is just to try to refine my race day action and do what I can to have a better World Championship ride.

How much did Team USA work together? Were there any tactics involved?
My two teammates and I talked quite a bit about tire selection and pressure, but Jonathan (Page) and Ryan (Trebon) were staying off site. During the race, there’s not a lot you can do for one another when it’s balls to the wall for the entire hour. We did share as much info as possible with the Juniors, U23s and Women riders – that definitely makes us feel like we’re all in it together.

What are your personal and your team’s goals for the season?
I had five days between Worlds and our team training camp in Tucson, Arizona. In between, we had the season-ending party for the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com team in Beverly, Massachusetts, and I did a photo shoot for a magazine in New York City, then off to the team training camp. It worked out really well, I had great legs for the camp.

As the team captain, it’s my job to make sure that we accomplish the goals that we set out before the races. Tactics change during the events, and we need someone out there to keep a clear head when we’re under pressure. I’m looking forward to racing with no radios. (Editor: this year the UCI has banned race radios for most road events). You gotta be motivated, willing and able to take risks. It’s lots more dynamic. Races that are scripted get old.

Overall, we at UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis are just looking to get back to our winning ways. We have guys who can sprint, climb and go for GC. So, we want to make sure we’re winning, have a good Tour of California – I like racing at that level, it’s really intense and hard and lifts our game.

Personally, I also want to win at least one race this year. I had a sprint finish loss to Teddy King in Marblehead (Massachusetts) this year. For my own head, and so my teammates will stop giving me crap, I need to take a win!

Thanks Tim. We’ll be watching your road results and counting down the days with you until the beginning of the 2010 US ‘cross season.