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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.
Cascade Cycling Classic, Bend, Oregon, July 10-14
Stage 6 - July 14: Old Mill District Criterium
Friday's downtown crit had huge crowds but the word has spread in Bend and I hear that Sunday's spectator attendance was much improved over last year. At the start line I overheard temporary Mercury team director Derek Bouchard-Hall warning Tom Danielson that just because Tom had a front line start position didn't mean that he'd still be at the front by the first corner. Tom comes from mountain biking and was a Cat 3 roadie very recently. Today is only his third criterium in the pros and he got waxed on Friday night. The gun went off and Tom took off like a rabbit. Everyone howled in joking protest humor at his sheer determination not to get left behind.
As the race unfolded Tom joined his teammates setting a fiercely hard tempo to defend Wherry's lead. Prime Alliance wasn't having any of it and DeCanio was first to attack. Soon I found myself in a dozen-man break that had a few seconds over the Mercury train. We all worked together until Mercury fired Gord Fraser across to us. Deathknell for the group. Gord was watching Tony Cruz (USPS). When five of us attacked the splintering dozen, Cruz figured he'd let some of the rest of us have a shot at the stage and didn't respond.
Mitchell (Navigators) and I did most of the work initially and we built a 45 second lead. Fisher (Saturn) and Peters (Prime Alliance) rolled through with very short turns. Our lap to lap gains turned flat to negative. That was as far as Mitchell and I could power this break. Finally I gave Baldwin (Navigators) an ultimatum: stop sitting on and help us out or I quit and we can get caught, we'll reshuffle the deck. Baldwin responds that since I'm virtually alone in the race I'd be better off with this combo, and that he's got Littlehales in the bunch. Nothing against Littlehales but he hasn't been lighting it up yet this year so I said "yeah, RIGHT."
Baldwin got on his radio "uh, Ed, can I work?" They must have decided that taking a lap and passing Creed (Prime Alliance) for fourth overall was worthwhile, because Baldwin became the powerhouse of our break. With eight laps to go we were within 10 seconds of lapping, a dangerous point because one of us might just decide to jump across the gap in the hopes that the rest of the break wouldn't make it without his power. I figure Peters or Fish will do it since they've been doing relatively little work. Instead Baldwin jumps first and leaves the rest of us wide-mouthed and gaping for air.
Without him we don't have long before we'll lose ground on the Mercury-powered, single file peloton. Nothing to do but give it everything - if I don't latch on to the back of the field the other three will jump me and I'm done for. In one huge effort that Peters later tells me just about dropped him, I close it down and we're all a lap up. In the end, I didn't have the cajones to field sprint and had to settle for fifth while Fish got a great lead-out from his team to win. Picking up a lap helped move me ahead of Cruz for the overall, but he made out like a bandit by prime hunting to the tune of $300 while my three primes totaled just $60. Not exactly pro tennis or golf rewards but I love cycling anyway. Once bitten it never seems to leave your blood, right Art Shuster?
American Stage Racing at its best
The Cascade Cycling Classic is beautifully run, on gorgeous roads, has awesome officiating, local TV and media coverage, great crowds, and some of the most enthusiastic police support I've seen in the US. With three super hard road races and two 50kph crits, it's a model for all American stage races. It's as good as 'Toona and with all the wealth coming into Bend sponsorship is bound to grow. Big thanks to our super helpful and fun host family, the Bergers.
Model Growth in Oregon
Despite supersonic suburban development, Bend differs from the rest of America in several interesting ways. Traffic engineers have widely adopted REAL traffic circles (roundabouts) that everyone seems to know how to use. In Massachusetts these are being eliminated one by one in favor of lights. Circles allow continuous traffic movement and therefore improve fuel economy and decrease congestion. Lights on the other hand are perfect for newbie drivers and those who simply are too lazy to learn anything beyond three colors. All the new developments have bike lanes, bike racks, and sidewalks separated from the road by a comforting grass median. New office parks have restaurants and stores within walking distance of the buildings. While original residents of Bend decry the influx of Californians building massive gated and walled housing developments, at least the city planners are trying to make that growth attractive and accessible by foot and bike. It may become the new Aspen or Boulder but hopefully sprawl won't eliminate too many of the forest trails and rugged countryside that make Bend beautiful.
A National Bikeway System?
For one lunch one day we had halibut enchiladas at a local joint called Longboard Louies, and I was surprised to find "Oregon Cycling" newspaper amongst the free realty and auto classified magazines. It seems that biking is widely accepted not only for recreation/fitness but also for transportation around here. This months' issue highlighted the ironic and tragic accident of a cyclist participating in the awareness raising "National Greenway Trail Relay Ride". Riders had been crossing the country from Washington to California to raise awareness about a proposed interconnected cross country bike trail which would be separate from cars. One Oregonian heard that no rider had committed to the Chicago-Des Moines, IA segment and without hesitation he took time off work to do it. While still in Illinois he was hit by a truck. He will be in long term rehab, may never walk again, and had to postpone his end of July wedding. Media coverage of these fatalities (it seems like one a week nowadays?) can improve roadbuilding codes and increase motorist awareness. On the flip side, parents may discourage their children from riding bikes altogether.
A Motivating Insult
While waiting for our flights out of Redmond, Tony Cruz regalled Tom Danielson , Mike Creed, Matt Decanio and me with a story from the 2001 Vuelta Espana. Tony worked hard for his team leader Levi Leipheimer (third GC) and still finished in his first three week Grand Tour. I'm sure Tony wouldn't mind my retelling it here We were talking about crosswind racing and Tony said that USPS had unsuccessfully tried to split the peloton twice with all-out staggered echelon riding at the front. Tony described these first two attempts as weak, "not pretty". A Domo rider came up to Tony and asked if the USPS squad for the Vuelta were real bike racers or just pretending. Tony looked over to Chann McRae (formerly of Mapei and a new signing for USPS at that time) and said "Nobody talks to us like that!" Tony got on the team radio and called for everyone to the front. Chechu and Roberto Heras were still mid-pack when the rest of USPS began to swap hard pulls at the front. They just made it to the front before the peloton began to disintegrate under the pressure. Tony felt great and was amazed to see his cyclocomputer registering 60kph (37mph) in the sidewinds. None of the USPS boys realized that they were riding on 55 tooth (53 is standard, with more teeth meaning a larger/taller gear ratio) chainrings. Third time was a charm, the peloton shattered into small echelons, and I'll bet the Domo guy was wondering why he opened his mouth!
Until Nationals in Tennessee
I made all three flights today, without delays- a minor miracle. Two nights and a day off before flying to Time Trial Nationals. Cascade put me in perfect form. No excuses now