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Interview with Tim Johnson (part two)
By Staff
Date: 4/30/2007
Interview with Tim Johnson (part two)

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

Photo c. 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. - Tim Johnson

In part 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 winter?

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 you ?

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 organization.

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.

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Tour de Georgia - Interview with Tim Johnson (part 1)

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