Manual for Speed spoke with Tim Johnson of Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com the night before the 2013 UCI Cylcocross World Championships—about anything and everything. What follows is in his own words.
I grew up in Racine, WI. My mom got me into cycling when I was seven, racing on the velodrome in Kenosha. We would do that every summer, my sister and I. My dad used to race so cycling was in the family, but my mom only thought my sister and I needed something to do, a distraction. She took us down to the local velodrome where they had stock bike racing every Monday night in the summer. It was two laps around the track. I played all sorts of sports though: soccer, gymnastics, swimming, basketball, tennis. But once I did that first summer on the velodrome [Kaitie does the loop-de-loop with her finger.] I fell in love with cycling and knew that that’s what I wanted to do. The first summer I was on my neighborhood Wal-Mart bike, but the next summer I had a little Redline BMX bike with skinny tires.
When I turned ten I was old enough to get on one of the real track bikes, which we raced every Tuesday night. I did that and made friends through the sport and through them we figured out about road racing and cyclocross in the local series around Wisconsin. I still ride on the Washington Park Velodrome when I’m home. Well, it’s kind of still there. It’s falling apart but you can still ride on it.
My first job was at a toy store in downtown Racine, but that was only like two hours every other weekend. My first real job was lifeguarding at a country club for three summers, that was fun. I was pretty tan, and I saved a couple of lives. Lifeguarding at a country club is basically babysitting rich people’s kids. The first time, this kid couldn’t swim, all the guards knew him because he’d been saved five times already that summer. You think he’d learn. I was at the five-foot pool and he goes jumping right in, I recognized him, knew what was going to happen, and sure enough. I got him out quickly. The next time this girl tipped over in a floatie and got stuck, couldn’t flip over. I just had to grab her and pull her out. I don’t even remember the last one.
I ran XC and track through high school to be more involved at school and make friends outside of cycling. My senior year of high school I realized that cycling was really what I wanted to do, and that it was something I knew I could be good at. I had to pick between a big season of cyclocross and running XC again, and I made the decision then to focus on cycling, training and racing. I was applying for colleges at the time as well and I now go to a school where cycling is a varsity sport. I didn’t pick it solely because of cycling though—the academics are good and the campus is nice. I’m studying exercise science and minoring in sports marketing.
I’ve been racing collegiately for the last three years: road, track and cross. I was on the Planet Bike CX team with Jonathan Page and Katie Compton four years ago—I was 18 and in high school—doing the USGP races. Tim and Stu and Jamey and Jeremy were at the races as well. At one of the UCI races, Toronto I think, I got on the podium, and ended up meeting them.“In August I think, Tim called me. I was like, '...hello?' I mean, I have a signed, laminated poster of Tim hanging in my room.”Kaitie Antonneau
We just talked for a while, he got to know me and he connected me with Stu. Tim just wanted to know how much I liked the sport, and what I was planning on doing with it—if I was planning on doing it for a long time. He told me we should keep in touch and I was just like, “OK.” [schoolgirl voice] I was so excited and I ran to tell my mom. It was huge for me.
The next time I emailed him I had just been picked for Junior Worlds on the road, he congratulated me; after that I was talking with Stu as well and we worked it out to get me on the team. This is my third year now. It’s so cool, I love it. I love hanging out with the guys, they’ve become family to me. I’ve upgraded from the poster to having his number programmed in my phone.
I like road but cross is my favorite, I have the most fun and I’m the most passionate about it. I love the atmosphere of cross. It’s so spectator friendly, and the huge variety in courses and conditions makes it fun for me. I’m drawn to that.
I don’t count calories, I don’t have a scale. I eat healthy and I have a power meter, but I’m not overly picky or precise. I avoid junk food, that sort of thing. I’m taking a course on exercise testing and prescription, and applying/relating to that is great. Last year I took a nutrition class, and getting deep into nutritional timing was helpful. Glycogen windows, that sort of thing.
I don’t really have a social life in the normal sense. I’m taking 19 credits this semester and that’s hard. I have a group of friends from the cycling team at school though, that’s my social life. We’ll cook or bake together, which I really love.“When I’m not training or resting I need to be studying, and when I’m not studying I need to be training or resting. I don’t have that much free time.”Kaitie Antonneau
When I go to race I turn something on. The day of the race I have a whole different side to me, whether I’m relaxed or not. I’m ready to try to kill people on my bike. Race day I’m different. When I’m most relaxed and confident I do better, I’m not wasting energy on anxiety. It’s hard to avoid that nervousness, to force myself to calm down. I have to talk to myself in my head, remind myself to breathe, remind myself that being uptight is going to hurt me.