The John Lieswyn Diary 2001

1st Mercy Classic Bike Race, Benefiting Make-A-Wish Foundation

Fort Smith, Arkansas, October 6, 2001

My last race in the US for '01


7UP's Dave McCook, Kevin Monahan and myself flew in on Friday. The airlines are running fine, and all the media reports of longer lines and warnings to show up hours early seem to be hype. I've taken eight flights since the new security measures were instituted and the only difference is that it takes about 3 minutes longer at the security checkpoint. You only need to allow additional time if you are parking, because your car may be searched. I like to ride my bike in and out of the airport whenever I can. This trip I rode the 50 miles from my house in Ames to the Des Moines Airport, arriving just 45 minutes before the flight, doing a quick change in the restroom and packing the bike. Small airports are the way to go for sure.

Fort Smith and the Event

This town of 75,000 inhabitants is typical of the rest of America. Struggling historic downtown district with many empty buildings. Ironically the four lane "new" business road composed solely of automotive related businesses is called "Phoenix" street. We're staying at the 9 story Holiday Inn & Convention centre. The organizers of the Celebrity Charity events (golf tournament, silent auction, dinner show) have been doing this a while and their first try at a bike race is very well run. The prize list and organization is worthy of a US Pro Tour event. All that is missing is the support of national level bike racers and local spectators. We (the pros in attendance) promised to bring as many riders as we could next year.

The American calendar really needs races like these to fill up the weekends in late Sept/early Oct. Certainly many more riders will come next year if it is put on the National Calendar. Saturday morning we went to the kid's bike rodeo to cheer on the children, sign certificates of completion, and then went for an hour spin in the quiet countryside.

The bike race

Just 30 riders lined up in a race where the prizes went down 40 places. The national elite amateur team Mercy Fitness had ten riders in their sponsor's event, and others riding today are Scott Moninger (Mercury) Jonas Carney and Chris Horner (Prime Alliance) Ben Sharp (GoMart). Due to the tight 2 km figure eight course, from the first corner I put myself in the top 4 and didn't drop back until the break was formed. I was joined by Kevin, Scott, and Chris.

I'm training hard for the Herald-Sun Tour so I was motivated to ride flat-out without regard to my placing. Very short straightaways and smooth corners made the 90 minute race a blast to ride, constantly leaning one way and the other. We came within 20 seconds of lapping the field and slowed at that point to stay out of the melee. Chris Horner edged Kevin at the line for the win.

Not getting paid by the troubled Mercury/Viatel team since June means that Chris is super motivated for prize money and it showed today. Kevin can look forward to the last domestic races in Greenville and Miami. They're great races but I'm headed to Melbourne on Tuesday, for a 32 day trip and about two dozen races.