Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) capped off a successful Stateside cyclo-cross season with a victory at the US cyclo-cross national championships held in Bend, Oregon on Sunday. The 32-year-old will now turn his attention to the UCI World Championships held in Tabor, Czech Republic in January.
Johnson has won the prestigious stars and stripes jersey on two previous occasions - 2000 and 2007 - both in Kansas City. This year he was the odds-on favourite after eight season victories and winning the North American Cyclo-Cross Trophy series overall title.
"Oh my God, I can't believe this," said Johnson before donning the US cyclo-cross national champion's jersey. "It feels amazing to have the jersey back. Last time I traded frozen fingers for the win in Kansas City and I did the same thing today. My fingers are killing me."
Johnson struggled to hold a slim three to five seconds' advantage ahead of runner up Ryan Trebon (Kona-FSA) for the last half of the championship race. However, after a flawless final lap he added an additional three seconds.
"I didn't know I had it won until I came out of that off-cambre section and that sketchy downhill, definitely a place to dump it," Johnson explained. "I came out of that last corner and that was really the only time I actually knew that I had it."
Johnson had bridged across to his leading teammate Jeremy Powers in the opening laps. An unfortunate crash caused Powers to lose valuable time and he finished fifth place.
"Powers and I together was a best race scenario," Johnson continued. "We wanted to control the race from the start and not have to make any big moves to catch back up to the lead. The two of us up front with Ryan dangling off the back, Jonathan had a bike change, it was a perfect scenario. It was a bummer that Jeremy crashed like that."
Johnson admitted that his focus has turned to the UCI World Championships and will compete in the final World Cup at Hoogerheide in the Netherlands to prepare for the grand finale. He is no stranger to the world-class podium, having won the bronze medal in the Under 23 World Championships in Poprad in 1999.
"I already have my ticket to go to worlds," Johnson said. "I'll do the last World Cup first. But right now I'll take a nice little break here in Bend; a couple days off and then start training for that."
Johnson suffered a turbulent start to the 2009 cyclo-cross season with a severe crash in the season opener, Star Crossed. He was forced to sit out Rad Racing the following day. His run of success took off at the Grand Prix of Gloucester, where he won the second round.
He then went on to a winning streak in the Toronto International Cyclo-Cross double header, Derby City Cup, Boulder Cup and the Blue Sky Velo Cup, two wins in Providence and a win at the Mercer Cup. He acknowledged his sponsors Cannondale and Cyclocrossworld.com for his ample success.
"Last year they [Cannondale] went to a couple of events and this year they've been at almost every race we've done," said Johnson, who praised his title sponsors mid-season. "We have everything at our finger tips and it makes for basically anything you could ever ask for. That was a big part of our success. I think it’s absolutely a big part of it. We’ve been able to get to all these races easier and once we are at the races we dial everything in based on conditions. Everything falls into place."