We conclude our interview with Tim
Johnson where our discussion takes us to cyclocross, including his
plans to race 'cross in Europe this year, sponsorship, growing the
fan base and his 2007 goals with the Health Net Pro Cycling Team
Presented by Maxxis.
by Lyne Lamoureux
In the 2007 tour de Georgia, Health Net Pro Cycling Team
Presented by Maxxis team captain Tim Johnson earned the Most
Aggressive Rider jersey for Stage 3 after continually driving the
break up the stage's four rated climbs and helping teammate Jeff
Louder into the King of the Mountain jersey.
“When they are people watching by the side of road, I
love it ...I just really love the show and I like when cycling is
put center stage and we are all out there battling each other. -
one of our interview with Tim Johnson of Health Net Pro Cycling Team
Presented by Maxxis, we talked about his role and
responsibilities of being the team captain and the team's plan for
the Tour de Georgia. In the second and final part of our interview,
the conversation moves on to Tim's plans for cyclocross, the team's
effort to protect its future, and his goals for the 2007 season.
Lyne: In 2006, you won (again) the USA Cycling National
'Cross Racing Calendar Standings, so I have to ask, do you take any
time off the bike during the year? Why do you race cross in the
Tim: I enjoy both parts luckily. If I didn't like road
racing or didn't like 'cross then it would be pretty easy for me to
take a break. (chuckles) People wonder what is wrong with me but I
think I am just lucky because that its very easy for me to do both.
With 'cross, I get to travel with Lyne (ed: Tim is married to Lyne
Bessette, 2006 Canadian Cyclocross Champion) and share together a
nice sport that we both love.
And then with road, I can't ask for a better situation, I am
pretty lucky to be able to do all the big races and really help
contribute to help one of my teammates win because that feeling of
finishing a stage race with a teammate sitting on a podium is
definitely a huge thing.
Lyne: What is it about cyclocross that makes it appealing to
Tim: I think a large part of it is the atmosphere of the
people who do it. When I started in 'cross, it was in '95 and since
then I've met a lot of people in the States and around the world that
share the same love. When you enjoy a sport and the people in the
sport so much, it's really easy to stay involved and truly care about
what is going on.
This year we may have the first World Cup ever in the US which is
a huge, huge step. That would be in October in Rhode Island, which
would almost be a home town race. I've been in this sport for so
long, that it's really kind of more than just a circuit that I race
in, but it's a sport that I hold very close to what I do and I want
to see it succeed.
Lyne: Any plans of going to race 'cross in Europe this year ?
Tim: Actually yes. It may extend my year a little bit. This
year, I added a new sponsor to the whole mix, a company called LEER,
leading producer of fiberglass truck caps. They are supporting Lyne
and I both, and we are actually going to Europe for 6 weeks after my
'cross Nationals in mid-December so we'll be able to do a few World
Cups and a bunch of the European cat-1 races and then the World
Championships. It's going to be a really cool winter.
Lyne: How do you stay charged up mentally & physically when
you have a long season like you are planning to have?
Tim: Well, so far I've been really lucky that I haven't had
any real major issues with that. It's nice to be able to take a
couple of days here or there to make sure that I don't dig myself
into a hole. But in between the two seasons, it's just really easy.
You know for some reason, it's truly easy for me to ride my road bike
into the garage and not touch again until January because I just get
on my cross bike. For some reason, it's just really an easy
transition for me, it's something I look forwards to.
Lyne: It's exciting to hear about new races happening, such as
Montreal-Boston, but we also keep on hearing about races having
issues with sponsors and money. Can anything be done to make the
sport more appealing to sponsors?
Tim: There is actually. It is something that we care about
at Health Net Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis. There is nothing
worse that having a sponsor be afraid to sponsor a team or an event,
or anything like that. When we get tested out of competition or at a
race, all the records are taken down. And so at the end of the year,
we can show our sponsors that there is a reason that we haven't had
any problems, it's because we get tested this many times and that
they are all negative.
Our guys are honestly in touch with protecting ourselves, the
sport and our sponsors. There is nothing worse that having bad press
like that. For us that is what we do, we keep track of all the
testing that we do all year long and so we are able to show our
sponsors, that year over year, nothing is bad.
We care about what our team does and we care what our guys do and
the investment on our team is safe because we all care about it –
we want to be able to say that. I wish that more people would be
proactive like that. Then as a whole, we could look at each other and
say we are all doing it to save our sport that we love and that we
race, that we work so hard at doing. I think it's really important.
Lyne: One way to expand the sport is to reach out to fans, such
as your radio spots during the Tour of California. Do you enjoy doing
promotional events & interviews?
Tim: I guess I've never been a one trick pony kind of guy,
you know I take my sport seriously and I take my training seriously
and my racing seriously. It's not like you have to do just one thing
and can't do anything else. My place is the sport. I've been lucky
that I've been a pro for as long as I have, and for hopefully another
long stretch to come. It's fun, I like to be involved, I like to be
able to help things keep growing and whatever I can do to help is
what I try and do. For the Tour of California, being interviewed
every morning was a blast because those radio guys just love the
sport and want to hear what is going on in the race. It was just a
lot of fun.
You know, I was really excited...I only got a chance to see part
of the coverage for US Open in Richmond, but everything I heard, it
was great, it was good TV, the story of the race was told well. When
that happens, I love it, when they are people watching by the side of
road, I love it. What I don't really dig that much is when we go in
the middle of nowhere to do a race in front of nobody. I just really
love the show and I like when cycling is put center stage and we are
all out there battling each other. When it makes for good TV is when
a sport is really the most exciting.
Lyne: To conclude, let's talk about the plans for 2007. Is it
part of the team plan to after a 4th NRC Team title?
Tim: That would be huge, we are really looking after the
USPro Tour rankings with all the stage races, we're really going for
that. But you know to win a 4th NRC would be a great success for the
Lyne: Speaking of, what do you think of the USA Cycling
Professional Tour series?
Tim: So far so good. I'm really disappointed in Utah being
canceled. That race was really a great event for a couple of years.
It was getting bigger and bigger, it was getting to be a foundation
for our year.
Yeah, so far so good. It's good that they are trying to develop
some of the fan base that someone like Lance has built in the last
years. Hopefully we can make it bigger and better each year. Now that
Georgia has been saved and Tour of California - the more we can get
out there, the healthier the sport is. To be a promoter, it takes a
lot of personal effort, but also a lot of people have to be involved
to make a big organization. To have these big races succeed, then we
can get more and more people involved, and hopefully we'll all be
able to benefit from it.
Lyne: What would make 2007 a successful year for the team and
for Tim Johnson?
Tim: To make this year really standout, it would be that we
can go back to a couple of the races like Philly, Reading or
Lancaster, and US Pro towards the end of year, and if we can pull out
a win with all our best guys running at 100% and everything working
out, I think it would be a huge success. We've been winning, we've
been winning once in a while. And winning one of the big ones then
that just makes the whole year just a complete success. If I can be
any part of those wins, it would be great.
Thank you Tim for taking the time to
answer all our questions and good luck throughout the year.