What's Cool In Road Cycling

Interview: Saturn’s Tim Johnson

– By Eric Van Bockern –

The young man who once wore bib shorts with “Big Johnson” sublimated on his back side is returning to the road with a vengeance in 2003. Eric Van Bockern caught up with Tim Johnson of Team Saturn between cross races in California. Tim shares with us his other passions and displays maturity often found in men who went to the school of hard knocks in discussing his role as an equitable love partner with Canadian champ Lyne Bessette.

EVB – Tim, you appear to have reached a comfort zone with current Team Saturn. How do you view 2003 and what are your goal outlines and does your contract commensurate with that perception?

TJ – I think that “comfort zone” isn’t really the right word for it. That kind of implies having job security. Anyone in cycling knows that one should never really have that feeling… It makes people lazy and unwilling to put in the hard work it takes to keep a job on the road. Saturn has been really great though, they are a top notch team with support staff doing an incredible job. I’m really, very happy being a member of this team.

EVB – We met when ‘cross was a great focus. Rumor has it you’re missing the ‘cross world’s. Do you long solely to become a top roadie?

TJ – My dream is to be riding the biggest road races in the world. I’ll work hard to try to achieve that goal. If I’m not able, I’ll always have my background of cyclocross to come back to. It’s always hard for me to miss a cyclocross world’s. I’ve gone for the last 7 years and it just brakes my heart to miss it.

EVB – Speaking of cyclocross, you rubbed elbows with Daniele Pontoni. How do you view Simoni’s accusations of alleged cocaine use while many forget Pontoni was his predecessor in those allegations?

TJ – Uh! When? Oh… Right. I don’t think anyone really forgot it, especially those of us who were there in Denmark watching him crash at the finish line… The “white finish line”… Ha, ha, ha!

EVB – I had an opportunity to briefly speak with Charles Dionne in Quebec. He seems to have been brought on (Saturn) the same ROAD developmental plane you have. How do you view your program and his arrival?

TJ – We were both lucky to have been picked up by Saturn at about the same point in our careers. Charles is extremely fast and has a killer sprint. He did 2 years on the 7UP outfit so he’s been a pro for as long as I have. Having him on the team will give us a lot of confidence when we line up for the finish. I think we will be able to win with Ivan Dominguez and Dionne at a lot of races!

EVB – PCN readers want to know (at least this one does) what is the expected salary “jump” from Division 3 Team member to your very attainable Division 1 standing in road racing and does it compare to cyclocross, globally of course?

TJ – I’m not exactly sure what people make in cycling. It’s always been a very closed subject here in America and it’s only starting to be a common topic in Europe. There’s a minimum wage in Europe for a professional starting at 18k/yr I think. Here in the States with there not being very many jobs makes it difficult to put a number on what people make. Saturn has always been a great employer. They are a solid company and we don’t have the worries about missing paychecks like other teams. I think to be a winner on a Division 1 team would command something around 100k. Who knows nowadays? Cyclocross is an odd sport to identify. The top-5 crossers make a sizeable amount of money. It doesn’t all come from one team usually. They make at least 100k and up to about 600k I’d say.

EVB – How do you manage to commute between Middleton, Massachusetts and Knowlton, Quebec during your free time? Has border crossings to the Canadian Eastern Townships been an issue since you often fly through the Burlington, Vermont airport after an event?

TJ – Just a little bit. The good thing is that all the border people recognize Lyne (Bessette) from TV and the newspapers, so after all the formal questions it’s all smiles and we’re on our way. I do like to take advantage of the tax-refunds though! (NDLR: American citizens are allowed a rebate of about half the sum of Provincial and Federal taxes on goods purchased in Canada and all of it in accommodations above a certain amount at the present time.)

EVB – Your love/ main squeeze Lyne Bessette recently joined the Saturn Team. Did you have an input in her returning to Saturn ? If not, how’d you stay away from advising ?

TJ – Lyne and I have different goals, different training plans and we try to keep things as separate as possible. I don’t have the knowledge to be able to advise her in her career. She’s got an agent who looks after contracts and endorsements and a coach to give her the plan to success. I’m her partner in life more than her teammate. It is nice to be able to travel together to certain races but it happens so little with our odd schedules. We’re lucky to have two weeks in the same spot!

EVB – When at your and Lyne’s place, do you ever feel like tackling track (Bromont)? You’ve tried everything else!

TJ – That would be a lot of fun. I’ve only ridden on a track for an afternoon so I’m not sure how long it would take me to get out of the Cat 5’s… But I’d try it. They have a BMX track there too!

EVB – Are you able to visualize where you were prior to cycling and where you will be after an illustrious career (from pump attendant, BMX Joey to road pro)?

TJ – I think of that quite often. I always feel like I’m adding to my own contact book of business associates but I’m also trying to take as much as I can from the experiences I’m faced with. My life is certainly interesting at times and I’ll always have that to think of when I’m old and grey. I thing something in cycling would interest me though I’m not sure which avenue I would take.

EVB – As we’re conducting this interview in your beautiful home, would you mind showing us around your living room?

TJ – Of course! Lyne and I have done quite a bit to spruce things up. Lyne painted the entire bottom floor while I was away at a race (good timing J) and we’ve picked out some nice furniture: Leather seat for me and a cushy couch to read on. We took the TV out and left the stereo and our books. It’s a nice place to relax and enjoy the light coming through the big windows. By the way, the TV is now in my “Speedvision room”, has a checkered black and white floor where I can watch car racing to my heart’s content… A dream!

EVB – What was the last meal you cooked?

TJ – I just made some killer lamb burgers the other night with green onions and a load of garlic… Mmm, yummy!

EVB – You mentioned Lyne is a spokesperson for a health/organic food chain. Since your upper body has slimmed down a bit, what are the healthier treats you enjoy most compare to 4-5 years ago?

TJ – Yeah, my body has changed a bit, I was a bit thicker up top. After racing/riding all the time, my body has really changed. Lyne takes care of me and has shown me just how good healthy treats can be. I can’t believe I ever ate any muffins from Costco before. They are really disgusting when you look at them!

EVB – Your preferred “non-race” drink?

TJ – I will always go for some Sake. I think I had some for the first time with you as a matter of fact? Vegas… Anyway, I don’t drink that much but wine will always do it for me.

EVB – Best souvenirs brought back from travels and also for your mom?

TJ – Jelly Belly jellybeans from out in California where I’ve been training… Plus, a monster wooden statue of a cat that I bought on Rue Saint – Jean in Quebec City, crazy place!

EVB – From not taking anything for granted, we’re confident Timmy will make the best out of the shining opportunities before him. Thanks for talking with us Tim!

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