Former multiple-time US cyclo-cross champion, Tim Johnson (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) is aiming for stronger and more consistent performances during the second half of the domestic racing season. The New England native is hoping that his planned slow start will pay off with a win at the national championships held from January 4-8 in Madison, Wisconsin, and even further down the line at the 2013 UCI Elite World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky.
"I will try to take Madison for what it is and try and win," Johnson told Cyclingnews. "Being the national champion is huge, and I've been lucky enough to do it a few times, but I know what I am missing. I need to try and pull it all together this year to try and get that jersey again.
"I am trying to take advantage of the way our sport is now, with it growing and Worlds coming to the US, I want to get to Worlds in Louisville in the best possible position," he said. "I want to try to be more competitive at the bigger races now instead of showing up and treating them as an adventure, where trying to pull out a result was secondary. Now, I want more. I want to try and be better."
Johnson attributed his mediocre performances during the start of the domestic cyclo-cross season to a major change of focus. He was well-known for his dedication to competing predominantly on the road during the spring and summer months and transitioning to a full-time cyclo-cross schedule during the autumn and winter months. This year, he took a step back from road racing and welcomed a lengthy recovery period before beginning his new 'cross-only training regimen.
"The hardest part of the last six weeks has been being okay with things," Johnson said. "My season started slower because of what I did or didn't do during the summer. The hardest part was adjusting my expectations from what I was able to do the last few years, which was to go to a race, be competitive and go for the win. Theoretically, I knew that I was not going to be as competitive as before, but going to the race and not performing like before was really hard, a lot harder than I expected."
Johnson's results this season, thus far, have included a series of respectable top 10 results at CrossVegas, Exergy Cyclo-cross US Gran Prix events Planet Bike Cup and Fort Collins, along with the Gran Prix of Gloucester. However, top 10 performances are a slight set back from his notoriously consistent podium finishes during the last few seasons.
"I have never been one to do the big peak for things," Johnson said. "It takes a lot of sacrifice and extra awareness. I've always just raced and tried to do my best, all the time, but I was flat and expectations were the same all the time. To show up to a race and not be competitive [for the victory] was really tough. As an athlete you get judged all the time, what you do, how you look, how you perform and people forget very quickly what you have done in the past."
Johnson's season took a turn for the better during his first trip overseas in mid-October at the UCI World Cup openers in the Czech Republic. He placed inside the top 20 in Plzen after being caught behind traffic due to a camera man standing on course. He rode into a second top 20 performance during the second world cup in Tabor.
"I'm not happy with it but I am surprised," Johnson said. "I felt like I had a couple of good races but I see where I could have improved and where I could have done better. I went to the World Cups after a couple of crapy races domestically, so to finish up the first half of the season with two solid World Cups, I feel like I know what I can do for the next half of the season before nationals."
Johnson will next compete at the Colorado 'Cross Classic and Victory Circle Graphix this weekend in Boulder, Colorado, the Cincinnati UCI3 Cyclo-cross Festival held from November 4-6 in Ohio, and the Exergy USGP Derby City Cup held November 12-13 in Louisville, Kentucky. He will conclude his domestic season at the national championships in January.
"I'm looking for better results," Johnson said. "I have a handle on my training, I know where I am weak and I know what I need to work on. My fitness is getting better and I have more to spend now, more ammo at the races."
Following the conclusion of the domestic cyclo-cross season, Johnson will travel back overseas to compete in the final two World Cups held on January 15 in Lievin, France, and January 22 in Hoogerheide, Netherlands. He will end his season at the world championships held from January 28-29 in Koksijde, Belgium, where he will have realistic performance expectations.
"This year's Worlds in Koksijde are not exactly my kind of race," Johnson said. "I did the World Cup there last year without good fitness and it really kicked my ass. If you show up to a course with bad legs it exposes you immediately. I think having nationals as a goal along with finishing the season strong is my overall goal. That day at Worlds in Koksijde will be to try and get as much as I can out of it."