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Tour de Georgia - Interview with Tim Johnson (part 1)
By Staff
Date: 4/16/2007
Tour de Georgia - Interview with Tim Johnson (part 1)
Tim Johnson shares his thoughts on the responsibility of being the road captain and the team's plan for the Tour de Georgia

by Lyne Lamoureux

DailyPeloton caught up with Tim Johnson of Health Net Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis before the start of the Tour de Georgia, to get his thoughts on assuming 'full leadership of the team' as road captain and the plans for Tour de Georgia.

The Health Net Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis Roster for the Tour de Georgia is comprised of Ryder Hesjedal, Tim Johnson, Jeff Louder, Karl Menzies, Kirk O'Bee, Doug Ollerenshaw, Nathan O'Neill and Rory Sutherland.

Lyne: Can you describe your role as road captain with Health Net-Maxxis?

Tim: I think road captain in the way that Health Net-Maxxis team kind of sees it, when we are on the road and Corbett (ed: Jeff Corbett, Directeur sportif) makes calls during team meetings and as the race gets going, it is up to me keep everybody on the same page and just keep the focus on how we are planning to win the race on the top of our mind for the whole time. I don't want to be the guy screaming at the others. The way that it works is that everybody understands that we are out there to try and figure out a way to win, and it makes it easier for some of the guys not to have to worry about what is going on. It puts some of the pressure on me which I am totally fine with.

Lyne: Will you be wearing a big C like in hockey?

Tim: (laughing) You know, fooling around with the hockey theme, sometimes the best player is not the captain. I'm definitely not that most talented or strongest guy on the team. Once we go out there, we have 3, 4,5 or even 6 guys that are strong enough to win the race so I have to keep an eye on that to try and help figure out who that guy is going to be.

Health Net-Maxxis team effort at Redlands Classic race
Photo c. Lyne Lamoureux

Lyne: How do you figure that out? Do you watch them during the races?

Tim: You have to communicate. When we have team meeting the night before, a team plan is put together and then as the race goes on, based on circumstances, bad legs, or a whole host of reasons, then the game plan might change. I just have to keep in touch with all the guys and see what is going on.

Lyne: Is it part of your role to also watch the competition?

Tim: Yes, for sure. We are not just racing against one or two other guys. This year it seems that the parity in the pro peloton is really spread out and so it is really important to try and figure out who may be the strongest and kind of play of the other teams, how to be patient and how to be smart. We are still working on all that stuff.

Lyne: How is the race strategy determined?

Tim: The guys who have done certain races know how they typically play out and a lot of times, I'll talk to Jeff before hand and then Jeff will finalize the plans and lay it out for the guys at the team meeting. There are so many variations that it's different for every race almost.

Lyne: What is the plan for Health Net-Maxxis for the Tour de Georgia?

Tim: We have to split it up between GC and finish and with Nathan being back, it's going to be great. Even if he is not 100%, he is such a valuable asset to the team because of his experience and his leadership qualities on GC. You know, he's been top 10 every time he has ever done it, so it's easy for him to let us know where it's really important to be, here or there, at a part of a stage, and that will really help out someone like Ryder who has never done the race before.

For GC, Ryder is definitely our guy, along with Rory, Jeff and Nathan of course depending on how he is feeling. On the finishes, it's going to be Karl & Kirk, we are really going to be the quickest guys.

Lyne: So are you going to mix it up with the other teams for sprint finishes?

Tim: Well, in California there were quite a few sprinters, but in Georgia there won't be that many and that makes almost all the responsibility of lining things up for the sprint is going to be put on CSC shoulders just because they do have the fastest guy in the race.

That kind of makes it easier for us because in years past we've gone to the race with Gordon (Fraser) and Hendy (Greg Hendersen) and multiple sprinters and we really had to pitch every single day to make sure that the sprint worked out in our favor. But this time, we will be able to work off of CSC and try to be opportunistic and really all the pressure on the sprints falls on CSC which is kind of nice for us.

Lyne: Do you already have a plan for each stage, including the new stages?

Tim: There are some new finishes, but for the other ones like the Rome finish and the Macon finish we know it, we know what goes on there. For the other new finishes, well Chattanooga looks really hard, it's going to be a whole new ball game

Then the finish at Brasstown Bald that we all know, love and hate so much, so that it will be a pretty simple plan that day. You know the worse part about Brasstown Bald is that not only is it hard while riding up but then if you're lucky to get a push by one of the fans then as soon as they stop pushing, all of a sudden it feels like both your breaks are rubbing and you're back to your own power again. So it's almost worse to get a push because it reminds you of how hard it actually is when they stop pushing. Painful.

The night before every stage, once we get the race bible with all the profiles and the race details then the picture gets a lot clearer, we definitely have some plans....

Lyne: Tell me about connecting with the fans.

It's the best. At the Tour of California, we had fans at every stage, sometimes there was a team of 15 kids all piling on in the bus or sometimes it was just a few people. If fans get to know us, then they'll come and cheer for us all year round and it will be great for our sport.

Lyne: What is your schedule after Georgia, as you have been full on since late January?

Tim: Actually, after Georgia I have a few weeks off before we get to Arkansas, there are 2 race weekends in Arkansas with a training camp in between to get ready for Philly, so I'll have a nice little chunk of time after Georgia.

Stay tuned for part two of the interview where we talked about cyclocross and helping to grow the sport of cycling.

In the meantime, go meet Tim, the Health Net Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis and all the other riders as they are very happy to meet fans and talk cycling.
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