By Kirsten Robbins
Defending US national champion Tim Johnson is the subject of a new cyclo-cross documentary called "The 9 Ball Diaries". The DVD went on sale in November through the DH Productions website and at Johnson's title sponsor website Cyclocrossworld.com, and sold out within days of its release.
The film documents the struggles and triumphs of Johnson's 2007 season, beginning last September in CrossVegas and concluding at the world championships in Treviso, Italy in January, 2008. In the midst of filming, Johnson won the US cyclo-cross championship in Kansas City.
"The story of Tim's season was amazing. Of course it had an awesome ending, but how he got there was not easy, he had ups and downs and some drama that made it even more rewarding. That is what most people don't get a chance to see," said Don Hampton, owner of DH Productions and a four-time Emmy award winning sports documentary producer.
"The goal was to capture how cool cyclo-cross really is - it is pure bike handling at it's best," Hampton continued. "From the storytelling side of it, I wanted to present the sport of American 'cross in the best way possible but to do it with a narrow focus. Through the eyes of one of the sport's best athletes. It would of been way easier to do shotgun style coverage and shoot all of the events and just present the surface level stories, but I wanted to go deeper than that and make it a bit more compelling to the viewer."
The idea for the project was formed from a collaboration of Johnson's sponsors. Scott Struve, head of global marketing for Cannondale and Stu Thorne, owner of Cyclocrossworld.com along with Leer. With the help of Hampton and the DH Productions crew, the idea of documenting one man's journey through a season of North American cyclo-cross became a reality. "Don Hampton was looking forward to doing something creative with cyclo-cross" Johnson said.
"He's been involved in a lot of different types of broadcasting and he wanted to put something out there that was a little different. With cyclo-cross, in the States, we don't have the television presence so fans want to watch cross any way they can, whether it's an internet feed or a DVD."
The documentary not only follows his exceptional racing, but also highlights aspects of Johnson's personal life, support crew, teammates and friendships. The story line involves many of the main contenders in the sport including the many battles against rival Kona rider, Ryan Trebon. According to Johnson and the DH production crew, it was a dream finish to the movie with a win at the US national championships in 2007.
"I saw a lot of the cuts and edits but not the full DVD because I find it a little difficult to listen to my own voice," said Johnson. "I've had a lot of people come up to me with the video in hand asking me to sign it. It's sick, in the greatest and best possible way. I can't tell you what it means to have something like that, to have fans of something that I do. It's such a cool and special feeling to know people follow what we do."
Johnson noted the need for more heroes in the sport of cyclo-cross, much like in skate boarding and BMX. Creating a DVD is one way for up and comers to become more exposed to the Belgian-based sport. "I had all kinds of stickers, posters and VHS videos to watch and all kinds of different ways to keep into the sports that I loved when I was young," Johnson said. "I had a kid come up to me on Friday in Portland with a copy of the new DVD and he was so pumped to have it. He wanted me to sign it and that's the coolest thing. Our sport has great dynamics where people can actually watch the elites and the same races they raced in the morning before."
The movie trailer can be viewed on the Cannondale web site here.
Also see Cyclingnews' interview with Tim Johnson.