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The John Lieswyn Diary
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.
Full strength racing
USPRO week 2002
It's just under three hours ride (with loaded bike trailer) from Ames to the airport in Des Moines. I start out at 7:30am for an 11am flight. The first hour parallels freight train tracks through gently rolling cornfields. The corn is now just twigs, but by the time I return from the next month's racing they'll be stalks high enough to shelter a rider from the winds that I've been leaning into all spring.
First town south of Ames is Slater, where I must brake my crazily weighted three wheeled contraption to avoid a pick-up truck whose driver doesn't see me. Then on to Sheldahl, billed as "small town living with big city access" yet dying out anyway. Old Polk City comes next, its downtown square right off the main drag yet the café is closed and I must stop to refuel at the Quik Trip.
The only traffic is the occasional pick-up/boat and family headed out for a Saturday on Saylorville Lake. Then comes the northern suburbs, vast tracts of former farmland now covered completely by cookie cutter beige vinyl McMansions. There are no commercial or retail places to walk to from these "bedroom" communities, and the two lane I'm on is already busy with motor traffic at 9am on Saturday. Here I turn onto the Neal Smith Trail which wends through a forested river valley the 20km from Saylorville Lake to downtown Des Moines. Sunlight peeks through the leafy canopy overhead, birds are chirping, and dandelion fuzz collects at trailside like miniature snowdrifts. Normally either dry or a turbulent muddy torrent, the river is particularly calm and sparkling this morning. The weight of the trailer vanishes and I can't feel my heartbeat or my skin sweat. Sensory bliss. I could be barreling down the interstate in my car, insulated from nature and the other trail users who exchange greetings with me. I'd be at the airport in 45 minutes. And I'd miss out on another of life's beautiful moments.
The last 45 minutes takes me along Martin Luther King Parkway. At the northern end of the city this road is fronted by the filthy detritus of a society based on cars, then through an original neighborhood of decaying, often boarded up, once grand, two storey homes, and finally to the most jarring visual of the whole ride.
Two weeks ago I'd thought to myself as I drove from the airport to home, "I wonder why the last couple run-down houses have been taken down along here?" The road frontage was lush with spring flowers and grass, and I thought this downtown part of the two lane MLK Parkway would make a great park. Today I learned the real answer: dozens of bulldozers are clawing a giant brown gash in the cityscape.
The remaining downtown homes will have 70mph traffic in their backyard instead of the 30mph two lane "parkway" that used to wind down into the city. A new concrete jungle of ramps and six lane freeway in the making. Certainly bikes will be banned and I'll have to find an alternative way to ride into the city.
Once at the airport, I lock up my trailer and do a Clark Kent. On the second plane out of Chicago, we got one of those pilots that tend to give more information than the passengers want to hear: "Uh... as you can see we haven't left yet. The mechanics are taking apart our left engine to fix the low pressure valve. We have a new ETD of 3pm." I'm thinking "Uh... can we have a new plane please?" Of course nothing bad happens, in fact I read that air travel is safer than eating.
Clarendon Cup, June 2, 2002
100km, 100 laps. Four corners, two of them super sharp. It's in the upper 80's, very humid, very windy.
Yee hah. We are up to level playing field - a nearly full team of nine guys. Prime Alliance, Mercury, Saturn, Navigators, Ofoto, Sierra Nevada, everyone is here with full squads for the first time since March.
Prerace. I hardly warm up at all. Nervous. Feeling unprepared. The usual euro photogs have returned to snap head shots of everyone, their annual pilgrimage to US Pro week. Our sister team Diet Rite does a great job chasing but comes up a little short: Saturn has a successful solo break. Diet Rite delivers Tina to third.
100 to go. Carrying three bottles, something I only do at Superweek's 100km crits. Somebody (from a smaller team I don't know of) who read my diary last week notices I'm at the back with him on the start line. He says sarcastically "Aren't you supposed to be up there?" My terse reply, "This'll be safe, you watch." Only 110 guys in the race, easily navigable. I think to myself that with so much firepower and full teams of pros that the race will be single file. I am soon proven right.
90 to go. Chad Gerlach makes his mark on the Festina competition (sprint every ten laps for points towards a watch)
89 to go. Mike Tillman (Schroeder Iron) went off the front by himself for about a dozen laps. There are two crashes on the same lap but I saw none after that; one in the fierce winds and over poor road surface after turn 2, and another in the last turn, which is off camber and 120 degrees. No 7UP guys go down.
80 to go. The race blows apart. Kevin and I make the break, which lap by lap continues to shatter and reform, gradually growing in size to about 25 men. Tillman is caught.
50 to go. The attacks are frequent out of the uncoordinated, unwieldy break. Davidenko (Navigators) is alone up here. The animators include Vogels and Horner, and I've got them marked pretty well. 7UP/NutraFig has the numerical advantage: five in the break.
30 to go. The 25 leaders have lapped the field. This effectively ends all attacking, now that Davidenko has the help of his whole team again. Prime Alliance begins setting a steady tempo.
12 to go. Tempo time is over. Mercury is firing guys off left and right. We're patient.
7 to go. Wherry (Mercury) has gone away to a 10 sec lead. PA is chasing.
4 to go. Carney (Prime Alliance) is out, mechanical, no more free laps. PA eases off the throttles.
3 to go. The Navs bring Wherry back.
2 1/2 to go. I get our train going, we take over at the front. We might pull this off!
1 1/3 to go. Henk Vogels (Mercury) launches a powerful attack. I didn't hesitate, caught him as we crossed the line with one to go, but breathing like a fish out of water. "Wouldn't it be cool to go right by Vogels now," dreamin'! His move blew our train apart pretty effectively. In hindsight I wonder if it wouldn't have been better to stay back with my sprinters and steadily ramp it up, catching Vogels at the last corner instead of at one to go.
Finish. Davidenko wins. McCook second. We took 3-4-5 (Dionne, me, Godfrey). Less than 20 guys finished.
A reminder: My diary is just that, my opinions written as soon after the race as I can get an Internet connection. I'm not purporting to be a coldly independent reporter. If you don't like it you don't have to read it. Life is too short and fun to take it too seriously.