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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.
Jura Ranch, Fresno, CA, February 20-March 8
2001's five day camp in Colorado was snowed out, and on our one outdoor ride Jeff Corbett broke his back in a crash. Our equipment wasn't ready, and the new guys were riding in borrowed or leftover clothing from the previous season. Enter 2002.
While Jeff has healed and could be riding with us, he's been working hard for months to ensure the team's high morale and early success. The sponsors are really excited about the team. Cannondale sent superlight bikes and cool new clothing kit before camp started. The green and silver looks a lot more like a 7up can, and the black shorts are much more discreet than red, especially when wet! Ritchey again supplies bars, stems, seatposts, and will introduce us to their newest WCS products like cranks and hi thread count cotton race tires. Time Sport is back with shoes, pedals and Vectran reinforced full carbon forks.
Our women's team has a new sponsor also within the same family of companies: Diet Rite cola. They're on Masi bikes with Cane Creek wheels and Time support. We've had a few joint team rides with them and it'll be nice to once again be able to cheer for each other at the races.
Best of all, we have two weeks to train together in sunny Fresno. The Jura family business is San Joaquim Figs, the producers of organic Nutra Figs. Roy and Betty's sprawling ranch home has room for nine riders (our Kiwis, Greg and Hayden, will be joining us in early March) and three staff. Betty cooks huge dinners for us every night and stocks the house with enough food for forty. She often has a pot of soup ready when we get back from rides. A rambling wooden pool deck overlooks a green valley and is graced with a beautiful sunset every evening. The Jura ranch encompasses many acres including a hilltop trail for motorcycles. Former Nutra-Fig rider Chris Horner brought out his RV trailer, one of his huge dogs ("Bear") and his dirtbike and parked it all on the huge circular driveway. As he's been training in the Fresno area for years he led us all on a six hour ride through the foothills including three 8km climbs. The rough, narrow country roads wound past streams, lakes, and dams. At one point while descending single file at a leisurely 30mph/50kph we abruptly came upon a wild burro (donkey?) walking uphill on the road's centerline. Wish I had a handlebar mounted camera to capture scenes like that.
One day Roy needed some help with boxes in his barn. Under a thick layer of dust sat a '55 Mercedes 300C four door, full length cloth roof. Flat tires, all the fluids have leaked out. Roy parked it a number of years ago still running. I'm still working on our '66 Benz roadster so I won't even think of making an offer.
March 2-3, 2002
Great support from sponsoring McLane Pacific grocery distribution company, however the crowd could be improved with media involvement and spectator parking signage. If you were driving around downtown there's no clue as to what's going on other than lots of semi trailers blocking off numerous access streets.
Stacked field includes nearly full squads from seven teams: 7UP/Nutra Fig, Saturn, Mercury, Navigators, Prime Alliance, Schroeder Iron (formerly NetZero), Ofoto/Lombardi's. We're down by three with Kevin recovering from the flu and our two Kiwi riders not yet in the country. With so much firepower on hand a very short leash was kept on breakaways. Some team was unhappy with every combination that formed, and the flat course meant that chasing was easy. Lots of riders would attack but very few would actually drive a break once they got up there. So I tried to use the race for training and went for a few $100 lap primes. Last lap, 400m to go. Successfully ran the gauntlet with two messy crashes right around me, but couldn't get to the front to help Charles. He pulled off third for us, quite a bit ahead of last year already!
On the women's side team Diet Rite trumped everyone and won with Tina Mayolo-Pic from a three up break.
The road race on Sunday went similarly, with Charles taking second in a crazy 100 man field sprint. I'm going to be kicking myself all week for blowing the leadout. Racing every day is much preferable to weekends only, as in the latter case you've got a bunch of days to replay mistakes made.
Three days at home. Time flies by, now back on the plane for another three week stint on the road. Now it's nearly every day racing, less time to miss Dawn, Closer and home.
Results - McLane Pacific
March 9, 2002
Doug, Kevin and I flew on Friday. A winter storm in Denver meant over 100 flights cancelled and it ended up taking us 16 hours to get to Fresno. Needless to say, my legs were tight for the start of the Visalia Road Race Saturday morning. Saturn set the tone for the race by throwing it down on lap 1 of 9. OUCH. An aggro battle ensued at the end of which there were only 20 guys left in the front group. Doug and Oscar had covered the big midrace break but were outnumbered so badly that they got worked over and didn't have anything left to join Charles and me for the finale. On the final lap I had "Crystal Cranks" (it felt like any pressure exerted on the pedals would cause a leg cramp) compounded by a slow leak in the rear tire. End result: Mark McCormack (Saturn) got away solo while Charles and I finished top 10. Post race I cleaned house and did some plumbing work for the Juras, our host family here. We're packing up this morning for the Visalia Crit immediately followed by the four hour drive to Redlands.
Results - Sequoia Cycling Classic