When I answer my phone and hear, “Mollyyyyy!” I don’t have to look to see who it is. It’s Tim Johnson, and he’s calling en route to the airport to catch his flight – after getting back from Europe on Wednesday night – to head to Colorado for this weekend’s Boulder Cup races. “I have ten minutes to talk,” he says, and as I’m about to suggest that we reschedule, he adds that he needs to park and get into the airport with “all of my $hit,” but he’ll have time at the gate. “My flight doesn’t leave until 5:30,” he says. “I can call you back around 4:30.”
Since we’ve been playing phone tag for literally months on end, this is actually a good chunk of time, and just enough, as it turns out, to catch up with him on how the season has gone, from CrossVegas to the East Coast to Eastern Europe. So despite chatting while the airplane staff was talking over the intercom (yup, we talked while he waited for takeoff), we managed to discuss his early season, how he felt going into the season without racing much on the road, and his plans for the rest of the season.
Cyclocross Magazine: How has the early season in general felt? Have you been meeting your goals?
Tim Johnson: No. [Laughing] I struggled, for sure. Not with what the results were, but with what the results meant. I was expecting a slower start, but when it actually hit me, I definitely struggled. But I feel like in the last two weeks I got to place where I could actually race instead of just … sucking. It’s like, as an athlete you have plateaus that you feel like you have to launch from and I feel like I’m getting to that place, or to a place like that now.
CXM: How do you think your new way of training over the summer — cutting back on racing, focusing on cyclocross — prepped you for the season? Was it a good idea?
TJ: I do think it was a good idea. There’s going to be a payoff and that’s what I’m planning for. It’s just helped to wrap my head around what’s not there any more. One of my biggest qualities has been figuring out how to deal with having patience and that’s been really tough.
CXM: Let’s talk about Europe. You started with a bit of a debacle at the Plzen World Cup with a botched start thanks to the cameraman on course. Thoughts? How did that race feel, despite the start? You made up a lot of ground.
TJ: Minus that part, it was a good race. If you look at the lap breakdown, I had fast laps, I was pulling negative laps, I was catching people each lap. In that way, it was a good race. It’s like … pulling something from a big pile of poo.
CXM: And then what about the Tabor World Cup? You finished 17th, which is pretty solid for a World Cup!
TJ: Last weekend was kind of like an average World Cup for me. That’s what I should be doing all the time, at the very least. I did kind of mess up the start a little, but again, I was making up time and I was bringing people back the whole race.
The thing is, it’s different — I don’t have a whole season behind me, I’m eager to do these races, to do these UCI C1 races, to get to these World Cups. I’m actually looking forward to it.
I like that I can actually do this. When I have a team like Cannondale/CyclocrossWorld.com that can fly us around, I can try and make each race a good one. There are people who might whine and complain about their situation, but I’m in a position where I’m super lucky and fortunate to get to be doing this, so I’m going to squeeze whatever I can out of it.
CXM: What’s the rest of your season looking like? Any new goals?
TJ: All of my goals are still there, I want to win races and I want to win Nationals. That hasn’t changed. What I feel like is that having a good January, like I have in the past few years, means more now. I’ve had good Januarys before, and now that means good form for Nationals and those last two World Cups and Worlds. That’s really the motivation.
CXM: Any time off?
TJ: I do have a weekend off in November, which is a shocker! I’m hopeful I can spend more time at home.
CXM: Boulder Cup is this weekend and it seems like it’s going to be a snowy race. How are you feeling about that?
TJ: I don’t know if it’s going to stay snowy. Tomorrow might be a bit gooey, but I hear they’re shoveling. So it could be variable course conditions … if I can have snow, I’ll take it. But I’ve had good races there in both conditions. Boulder is tough; the altitude throws you for a bit of a loop. I need a few more weeks of results before I’m confident I’ll be able to put the hammer down.
CXM: Any other exciting new stuff going on?
TJ: I’ve been doing work at USA Cycling with the USA Cyclocross commission. We had a meeting after USGP Fort Collins. It’s been a great opportunity to help craft a future for cyclocross.
We’ll be finding out more on Tim’s activities with the Cyclocross Commission and checking in again. Additionally, we’ll be checking in with Tim and his other half, pro cyclocrosser Lyne Bessette.