Tim Johnson (Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com) is on a quest to pick up valuable International Cycling Union (UCI) points after an injury setback prevented him from racing during the first month of the 2009-2010 calendar. The defending US Gran Prix of Cyclo-Cross (USGP) champion started the vital rebuilding process by capturing his first victory last weekend, the first step toward his goals of competing in the World Championships held on January 31 in Tabor, Czech Republic.
Johnson sustained a grade one separated shoulder following a crash in the season opener’s Star Crossed held in Seattle, Washington last month. He tried to start CrossVegas but withdrew and was forced to skip the first round of USGP races held in Madison, Wisconsin last week. He has only been able to finish two of the seven races thus far, with a fourth place and win at the Gran Prix of Gloucester.
“This is definitely not the start of the season that I was expecting,” said the former US champion. “I don’t have many points and only two finishes so far. It’s going to set me back for at least the next few weeks until that next World Cup comes. It’s got to be race by race.”
UCI points were reset after the first World Cup held in Treviso, Italy on October 4. The UCI points accumulated during the 2008-2009 cyclo-cross season are erased and only points captured from September, the start of the 2009-2010 season, count.
“I think that the points will be a real hindrance to making the races go my way,” said Johnson, who has a total of 42 points. “I should be second or third row, I think. I'm not sure of the total [points], but it'll leave me wanting I'm sure. When I came back to 'cross in 2005 I was starting last row for the first few weeks of the year; it wasn't a whole lot of fun, believe me!”
Prior to his accident Johnson was hoping to start off the season in winning fashion. “I had a solid road season with the OUCH-Maxxis boys and finished off with a great Tour of Missouri,” he said. “I was really focused on CrossVegas and the first weekend of the USGP in Madison. As with anything though, you can't always count on things going your way. Crashing at Star Crossed and hurting my shoulder was really the last thing on my mind.”
Last year he displayed his resilience to injury when he crashed at the USGP’s Mercer Cup while on his way to victory in the first round. The injured knee prevented Johnson from starting the second round the following day and he forfeited his USGP lead to rival Ryan Trebon (Kona). He regained that lead and went on the win the USGP title at the series’ final weekend held in Portland, Oregon.
“I think that it will work out fine in the end for my teammates Jeremy [Powers] and James [Driscoll],” Johnson said. “I'll be coming up from behind, depending on start position and will be able to join in later on. James really stepped it up these first few weeks of the season and I think that Jeremy is riding very strong right now. He should be in the hunt for the overall at the USGP's again.”
The New Englander’s first triumph of the season was a solo victory at the Gran Prix of Gloucester ahead of Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) in second place and teammate Powers in third.
“This was huge,” Johnson said. “I came through that start-finish line and it was wall-to-wall people on both sides. It’s one of those things that you can’t describe until it happens and once it’s gone, it’s gone and you wish you could have it again. I’ve been lucky enough to win here in the past and to win again is definitely really special.”
Johnson’s cyclo-cross season will continue with a double header in Providence, Rhode Island this weekend followed by the remaining USGP events at the Derby City Cup in Louisville, Mercer Cup in New Jersey and Portland Cup. He also has his sights set on the North American Cyclo-Cross Trophy series title racing in Toronto International, Blue Sky Velo and Boulder Cup and South Hampton’s Super Cross.
“I'll try and be on my best form for US Nationals in Bend,” said Johnson. “I'm also planning on trying for the World Championships in Tabor. With Tour of California's switch from February to May, hopefully it will be possible to do it better than I did two years ago. It was too tight between them and it wound up not working out very well.”
Follow Cyclingnews on Twitter for the very latest coverage of events taking place in the cycling world - twitter.com/cyclingnewsfeed