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A pro racer who now mostly concentrates on the US domestic scene, John Lieswyn is one of Cyclingnews' most popular and sometimes controversial diarists. He has been racing since 1985 and a Cyclingnews diarist since 1999. John likes both criteriums and longer road races, and seems to particularly like it when the going is hard. He has raced in the Regio Tour, Peace Race, Tour of Poland, Vuelta a Guatemala, Tooheys GP and Commonwealth Bank Classic with success, as well as winning astages in the Sun Tour, Killington and Superweek. In 2002, he is riding for 7Up/NutraFig.
I spent the week in Vegas before coming here. Training there confirmed yet again my concerns about gated subdivision, 6 lane residential highway, suburban sprawl. There's nearly 2 million people living in the desert. Big brown smudge of pollution overhanging the Las Vegas Valley. On the upside, my rides took me to Red Rocks, Hoover Dam, and past the water show at the Bellagio. What a job. Riding my bike and seeing cool stuff.
This year our team manager Jeff Corbett and the sponsors have worked hard to get us our gear pre-season. All our equipment is now in. The morning of the TT I worked on my new Cannondale time trial machine, getting my position dialed in. Somehow I felt like doo doo when it came time to race, and finished a dismal 43rd. Doug Z rapped out a fast time for 7th, just behind a solid stack of 5 Mercury riders in the top 6.
DANGEROUS. Yellow line rule races shouldn't be run. At one point I was sitting 40 guys back and we were all right on the centerline thanks to a slight right crosswind. A rider's frame snapped in two and he had to come to a sudden stop. We're going 30 mph and swerving around this guy, with semis trucks doing 65mph coming right at us in the other lane. It may not happen next year or the year after, but at some point a rider will get killed. I was told that the organizers spent $16,000 on police for this. We know it's not in the prize list, since 2nd place in any race here pays zero dollars. Instead of having a rolling enclosure the motorcycle cops were riding down the centerline slower than the pack, nearly causing more crashes. Meanwhile the officials were handing out 5 minute penalties and disqualifications for crossing the centerline on the one road of the circuit that had no traffic at all. Hmm. I'm pretty sure I got a penalty, but it just doesn't matter... it's a training race, albeit with most of the US Pro peloton in attendance.
The road was true "chipseal". Little rocks were flying at our shins for a good portion of the race. You had to keep your mouth closed or you'd run the risk of having a tooth chipped. At one point I looked down at my shin and blood was running down to my socks. Fun! We poked along for the first lap at talking pace. Long race, plenty of time to drop the proverbial hammer. The category 2 peloton caught us after a lap and half. The officials did the right thing and stopped the race to separate us all, give a warning about the centerline, and reestablish the gap between pelotons. The 2's never got close again.
Our new guys Chuck Coyle and Dan Schmatz both went down in a big pileup at the end of lap 3. Dan was leaning on Davidenko's (Navigators) shoulder as bikes were flying, trying to stay rubber side down, until he got slammed from behind. When he picked himself up Davidenko was shouting angrily at everyone else on the ground. Until he noticed that his leg was deeply lacerated. He went to the hospital and we heard on Sunday that he will be out of action for 2-4 weeks. From Team 7UP/Nutrafig, we wish Vasily a speedy recovery.
My last remaining teammate Doug Z was feeling great until he flatted on the last lap, just as Mercury was winding it out right on the yellow line. The field was strung out big time, and I fought to the front to try and keep from going over the line. Somehow despite having used the race for training (ie, I made some big efforts unnecessarily from a tactical standpoint but excellent from a training perspective), I was feeling pretty good as we turned onto the hill for the final time. Gord took the field sprint for the win, I was 4th or 5th (it was a photo finish between Mariano Friedrick (Jelly Belly) and me.) I was very pleased with the finish after the TT letdown. It doesn't matter much since the race is a preseason race without National Calendar points and there was no prizemoney for anyone other than first place.
Gord Fraser (Mercury) won again. I asked Chuck and Dan if they saw anything funny to write about here. They say the only thing funny this weekend has been my auto driving. Apparently that curb that I didn't see (sorry Jeff, car's really OK though) has ruined my team driving privileges for a while.
Forty people including race leader Gord Fraser were completely arbitrarily disqualified for yellow line violations when there isn't a rider in the entire bunch who can say he never went over the line. I was DQ'd, so was Saturn's Jay Sweet. I'm embarrassed for USA cycling, as guys like Jay come from European peloton to race here only to see how hokey some US officials can be.
I heard that Jonas Carney won the reduced event, showing strong early season form. I was riding back to the hotel, venting my frustration by sprinting from stoplight to stoplight.
I urge all those riders considering doing this race in 2003 to think about whether it's worth the risk of crashing into a vehicle head on. After spending hundreds of dollars to attend, the probability of not finishing this event due to a crash or being DQ'd by the officials is pretty high.
Results - Valley of the Sun