Tim Johnson, the Saturn rider who signed with the U.S.-based Division III Colavita-Bolla squad last month, is now poised to ink another deal with the new Spanish-based Division I Saunier Duval team.
“This is the kind of thing I’ve been hoping to land ever since I started riding,” the 26-year-old Johnson told VeloNews on Monday. “I’ve always wanted to get on a European team, and suddenly this opportunity came up.”
Johnson, who recently won the Vic Roads Herald Sun Tour in Australia, said he was pleasantly surprised when he brought word of the offer to Colavita owner John Profaci.
“Man, my stomach was tied in knots but (Profaci) was psyched,” Johnson said. “He said, ‘This is great for your career, and there’s no way I could hold you back from this.’
“Development is the whole idea behind Division III, and I am really, really happy that John embraces that ideal,” Johnson added.
After being released from his commitment to Profaci and Colavita, Johnson will be signing a two-year contract with a team that is the successor to the Vini Caldirola squad.
Team director Mauro Gianetti said he signed Johnson on the strength of his recent performance in Australia “as well as what we’ve seen from him this season. The Sun Tour, to us, just showed that he had the talents to ride a long tour.”
Gianetti said he is considering using Johnson in either the Giro d’Italia or the Vuelta a España. The team is not setting its sights on riding the Tour in 2004.
“We have an ambitious schedule for next year, no matter how you look at it,” Gianetti told VeloNews. “This young man will have a chance at riding in a three-week tour, perhaps the Tour de Suisse and World Cups. I think the team, with riders like (Martin) Perdiguero and (Fabian) Jeker can offer a good place for a strong rider like him to get a start racing full time in Europe.”
Johnson is scheduled to arrive in Madrid for a four-day mini-camp and team presentation on Wednesday, where he will also sign his two-year contract with Gianetti.
“At this point, that’s about all I know,” he said. “They have my clothing size and my bike size and they will have everything ready for me when I get there.”
Johnson, who lives in Québec with his fiancée, Lyne Bessette, said he “rushed down to Florida” upon learning of the deal so that he might get a few days of warm-weather riding in before traveling to Madrid.
Johnson plans to join the growing community of American cyclists living in Gerona, Spain.
“That would seem to make the most sense, but I still need to find out a lot over these next few days,” he noted. “It’s all coming together kind of quickly. I’m really excited, but it’s almost too hard to believe right now.”