Interview: TIM JOHNSON Gets Pez’d
We finally got him! We talked with Saunier Duval-Prodir’s Tim Johnson before – and after – the Championship of Zurich about how tough the race really was, his year so far, and looking ahead to San Francisco…
JUST BEFORE THE RACE…
Pez: Have you seen the course at all?
TJ: Not in person. I actually read about it on PEZ! That was you, wrote that article?
Pez : Yep
TJ: Yeah, the climb, the Pre-Pfannestiel, the one without a name. My team mate Oliver Zaugg he lives around there and he told me about that climb as well.
Pez: What about your team tactics today?
TJ: Well we have Oliver who’s a homeboy and just a hardass who can hang & hang & hang on the group as it gets smaller & smaller. Ventoso’s got a good sprint on him, but he’s young & Bertogliati is good for the breakaways.
Pez: So your job is to look after Oliver & Bertogliati today?
TJ: Look after those guys and try and stay out of trouble basically.
Pez: Any chance of seeing you in the early break?
TJ: Dude, I’ll try (laughing) Why not? I’ll give it a whirl.
We chat for a few more minutes about the course and today’s competition, and then I ask about his season.
Pez: Tell us about your season so far, your first one in the big ranks.
TJ: Well the 2nd half has been a whole lot better than the 1st half. The 1st half I got sick, I was up, I was down, I missed the Giro team and so this part of the year is a whole lot better. I feel a lot better, stronger, more comfortable & that’s the most important part.
Pez: Any chance of making the Vuelta team?
TJ: No…….(much laughing)…….zero……..espagnol – spanish team. But I’ll be racing in Italy & San Francisco also. So I have to get back to the States and there is still a lot of racing after that as well.
Pez: How is the form coming along, now that you are 100% healthy again?
TJ: I’m healthy and the form is coming… I hope! But healthy’s the first part. The whole spring I was not even close to healthy & I was cracking so bad, but now it’s getting better.
Pez: Good luck for the race today!
SO HOW TOUGH WAS IT – NO, REALLY
I then let Tim go to sign on for the first World Cup race of his career. We then met up again after the race where Tim rode strongly, even making an early break that was pulled back into the fold after a few kms. The rest of the race he stayed in the lead peloton until the 175km mark when the rapid pace set by Quickstep proved to be just a little too much. Here’s what Tim had to say after the race:
TJ: I remember you saying in your preview that these climbs aren’t that bad when you’re not racing… but racing? They’re hard. It was hard. It’s a beautiful race, but it was hard as hell. We were going 100mph out there man……….
Pez: Very sapping course?
TJ: Yeah, that’s it. Sapping. All of a sudden when you go to dig for just a little bit more, it’s just not there. And that’s the difference between someone like me who’s riding to try and finish and someone like Rebellin who’s trying to win the thing.
It was so mad… but it’s awesome! Cool.
Pez: I saw you off the front on the 2nd lap?
TJ: Yeah, yeah (big smiles) Dude that’s my first breakaway & this is my first world cup.
Pez: You’ve got to be happy with that!
TJ: Yeah, I love it man.
We chatted for a few minutes about Switzerland where I race & where Tim spent 6 years racing cyclocross during the winter, and about Australia & riders we both know from there. (Tim’s biggest win to date was the Australian Sun Tour UCI 2.3 stage race Oct 2003). Tim interrupted the chat for a few moments, gave me his beautiful Scott carbon bike & went into the team bus, (check our Scott CR1 review here)returning a minute later with a fistful of Prodir pens (team sponsor).
TJ: A journo needs pens man! (smiling and giving me enough pens to write his life story.)
Pez: Thanks Tim! Ok, it’s a two year contract you’ve signed with these guys. You’ve experienced the European season now, on a big team & have an idea what it’s all about. What are your plans over the coming months & next years season?
TJ: Well, I’ve been really lucky to race over here & in the States. We did Georgia, Philly & now we’re doing San Fran. Every year, I’ve been top 15 in San Fran & I really want to do something big, maybe win it. Hopefully this year dude. San Fran’s such a cool race, its just awesome, so many people there it just rocks. If I can go there with good legs… I wanna win a race with these guys, you know? I don’t wanna be the guy who got on a good team & then kinda sucked.
Pez: You’ve got the winners spirit in you.
TJ: Well ……… I wasn’t a winner until last year when I had a great 2nd half of the season & started winning and thinking this is actually cool.
Pez: As a rider, what do you think are your strengths?
TJ: Well in the States it was a little bit of climbing, but dude not here. (laughing)
Pez: I know the feeling mate! (both laughing)
TJ: I sit across the dinner table from people like Leonardo Piepoli and think, ‘well he’s a climber……..’
Pez: More experience & more races & it will come.
TJ: Yeah, for sure. I’ve always helped people win, but I do want to win something myself as well, you know?
Pez: Ok, thanks for your time today Tim & good luck over the coming months.
TJ: Thanks man, nice meeting you.
Check out Tim’s website: TimJohnson.net