|Cyclingnews TV News Tech Features Road MTB BMX Cyclo-cross Track Photos Fitness Letters Search Forum|
An interview with Tim Johnson and Lyne Bessette
The Tim and Lyne show
Ladies and gentlemen, step right up - it's the show you've all been waiting for!
In the red corner, we have Tim Johnson from Middleton, Massachusetts, at five feet, nine inches, weighing in at 143 pounds. And in the blue corner, we have Lyne Bessette from Knowlton, Québec, at five feet, ten inches, weighing in at 135 pounds. Place your bets, because as Anthony Tan writes, it's going to be a beauty.
It didn't take much to get this vivacious couple from Saturn fired up. Just a brief question on what movies they're interested in led to a exchange that had both (including yours truly) in stitches.
Though it wasn't from a punch-up; it was more from laughing themselves silly after they recalled the time they saw their first movie together. Bessette walked out after ten minutes.
Says Johnson: "She doesn't go for the really intellectual English-language movies, because after a while, she can't keep up - they speak too fast and there's too many big words."
"For a Québec girl!" giggles Bessette.
"As you can tell, she's kind of got a short attention span," Johnson laughs. Bessette's still giggling.
Most likely, when Bessette and Johnson are together, this type of banter goes on all day, every day. I urge both, in the interests of our readers, to talk a little more about what they do on the bike.
And when I begin talking all things cycling, an immediate transformation occurs, revealing an inner-seriousness in both. After all, it would be fair to say that the couple have not had the most brilliant season this year.
Particularly Bessette. 10 big wins in 2001 - including the HP International Women's Challenge, the road race and time trial at the Canadian National Championships, and the overall in the US National Racing Calendar - was nothing short of magnificent for an aspiring, 26 year-old, third year pro.
Great things were always expected of Bessette, but what wasn't expected was such rapid success, and so repeatedly. Even more was thought possible in 2002, and while the form may have been there, the motivation was slightly amiss.
"I think it's pretty easy to explain," says Bessette, reflecting on her results to date. "This year, every time I raced, I had really good results, but I didn't race that much. So in the end, it doesn't seem like I had that great a season. I don't think it was my form, but mentally I think I suffered a little bit this year," she says.
Adds Bessette, "I decided to take a little break from Saturn and the pressure of the whole 'international' schedule, and try and focus on the Commonwealth Games and the Worlds."
Bessette attempts to justify the "break" by her bronze medal in the time trial in Manchester, but really, for an athlete the calibre of Lyne Bessette, anything other than the highest step on the podium would most likely be viewed as inadequate.
While relatively new to the sport of cycling, Bessette's athletic career began at age 10, and ran for almost a decade before she became bored and tired of it all. "I had to find something else to do," she says.
What is important here, however, is not what she did when she was bored, but the time she spent competing at an elite level, cocooned in her own little world - while others of similar age were most likely going to school and playing in the park in the afternoon. Certainly not running 10 miles a day anyway.
It is a problem often faced by child prodigies - be it sporting, musical, artistic or otherwise. Maturity at a mental level is (unknowingly at times) sacrificed for development at the physical level. And sometimes it requires an unfortunate set of circumstances to occur to bring them to their best, on both sides. Take a look at tennis prodigy Jennifer Capriati, for example.
Tim Johnson falls into a similar category.
Johnson's rough patch has also come in the elite ranks, and also in the same year as his partner Bessette. National Junior Cyclo-cross champion at 18, winner of the Under 23 division of the SuperCup at 20 and again at 21, twice National U23 Champion at 21 and 22 - then to top it all off, bronze at the 1999 World U23 Cyclo-cross Championships. That's one hell of a ride.
With another two brilliant seasons at the elite level, it appeared Johnson would comfortably handle all expectations in both road and 'cross disciplines - which sort of happened at first.
Just one year after winning the under 23 crown, Johnson succesfully duked it out with the big boys, victorious in the Elite Men's category at National Cyclo-cross Championships. And in the space of two years, he clocked up over 20 podium places on the dirt and road - including back-to-back wins in the Mount Washington Hill Climb - and showing all signs of a successful future tour rider.
However, in 2002, Tim Johnson's name appeared nowhere as frequently at the top of the results listings as in previous years.
"My road season's taken a hit by focusing on 'cross," explains Johnson. "The thing that hurt me is that I haven't done enough road racing compared to the guys in Europe, so I've had to try and play catch-up."
Not that the focus wasn't worth it - Johnson feels he was closer than he had ever been to the top 'cross pros from Belgium, and at the 'cross Worlds in Zolder, Johnson was lying in 10th place before puncturing on the penultimate lap.
"I had a really, really good race," says Johnson, still brimming with confidence. "Sure, those guys [the Belgians and Dutch] were flying, but I was flying too. It's hard to quantify, because I didn't get to dice it up with those guys in front, but for me, I was closer than I ever had been before," he says.
When Johnson explains the arduous training regime undertaken before this year's World Cyclo-cross Championships, one sees a regime focused solely on intensity, in stark contrast to the five to six hour training rides prescribed by the European teams' road coaches over the winter.
"I would ride the computertrainer in the morning, doing high wattage, short-timed intervals for around three minutes, just under 400 watts," he remembers. "I was doing around four to five sets of 10, which was really hard. And when I wasn't going super hard, I was going easy at a high RPM."
It appears therefore that while the road may be beneficial for 'cross racing, the reverse does not apply so well, and provides a compelling reason for Johnson's recent spate of non-results.
Hardly surprising then that Johnson has just come back from a holiday with his feisty other half, deciding not to compete in the upcoming 'cross Worlds in Italy early next year. "I've made sure that my body's rested in order to train properly for the road next year. And I need to sacrifice a shot at the Worlds in order to that," says Johnson.
On the subject of training, asked if they prefer to train alone or together, both starting giggling again before I can even finish the question.
"If Tim has a hard ride to do, he just leads the whole way and I follow," hoots Bessette, the not-so serious persona popping out once again, albeit for just a moment. "But most of the time, we have different training plans, so we stick with our own things."
Suddenly Bessette's giggling again when her partner mentions the running training they've been doing. "Lyne can't stand training with me because I run too fast - but I bonk after 19 minutes and she just blows by me at the end!" chuckles Johnson.
"We have a lot of fun training together and it's good," he says. "It's nice to go out for an nice, easy ride to catch up and look at all the pretty houses…"
"…and look at which one we'll get one day," finishes Bessette. More giggles. And the Tim and Lyne show starts all over again.
Johnson and Bessette's future as cyclists appears as promising as their relationship, although just like their relationship, the couple are still in developmental stages, and need to work hard and focus to realise their full potential.
The important thing is that both are aware of this, and understand there are no short cuts in a sport as unforgiving as cycling. Says Johnson, "I don't want to be wishy-washy - the biggest goal that I have is to race Division I some day - and so long as I have this dream of becoming a successful road racer, I need to put all my eggs in one basket."
"And I'm prepared to do it," adds Johnson. "If I can be successful on the road, I'll be the happiest guy around."
Bessette echoes her partner's remarks, signaling her intention to be at the top of her sport once more, particularly in the longer tours, including the Tour L'Aude (a favourite) and the HP Women's Challenge, Fleche Wallone, the Montreal round of the World Cup - and, of course, the 2003 World Championships, to be held in her home country in Hamilton next year.
For anyone, that's plenty of racing, but as Bessette says, "every season I went really well I did a lot of racing."
Then a lot of racing it shall be for this bubbly character from Québec.
Editor's note: Cyclingnews will be providing detailed coverage of both the US National and World Cyclo-cross Championships