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John Lieswyn
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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.

Solano Bicycle Classic, USA, March 28-30, 2002

Stage 3 - March 30: Criterium, 90 minutes

Movin' Up

Today's strategy: set me up for the mid race time bonus sprint (8, 5, and 3 seconds to the first three across the line after 45 minutes). I'm 5th overall, 1 second behind Danny Pate (PrA) and 6 seconds behind Eric Wohlberg (SAT). Danny and Eric will be jumping all over the place trying to get in a breakaway that doesn't have me in it. Ivan Dominguez (SAT) and Jonas Carney (PrA) will try to take the bonus away if their teammates fail.

More importantly, we want to win the stage. If it comes down to a bunch sprint we're choosing to sacrifice Charles for Greg, since a top 3 time bonus (15,10,5 seconds) will move Greg from 8th to 6th overall.

Why am I able to go for a mid-race sprint but not the final? Because I'm actually decent in a sprint as long as there aren't too many people risking life and limb for it. Everyone and their mother thinks they can win the stage sprint whereas there's only a few riders who will be contesting the time bonus sprint.

So I'm going to sit back for the first 30 minutes and save my energy, hoping my teammates will tag along (and hopefully neutralize) any breakaways. It doesn't work, we miss a big break that includes race leader Chris Horner (PrA) and Eric (SAT).

Everyone in the pack knows that we need the time bonus and we've missed the break, so the pace just shuts down. By the time we get organized on the front, the deficit is 15 seconds and growing 2-3 seconds per lap. If it weren't for Chris Wherry (MCY, 2nd overall) having also missed it, we may not have been able to bring it back.

Saturn riders made themselves difficult by placing themselves in-between the Mercury and 7UP/NutraFig chasers. This type of "blocking" is marginally frowned upon- Klasna defended it by saying that if I had my whole team there he'd respect the chase. So having just 2 guys there makes interference more acceptable?

It blew us up pretty thoroughly to bring it all together again, about 8 minutes to the mid-race sprint. I'm asking for help on our team radios and I know that after chasing they've slipped back and are trying advance again. Doug is doing this when he runs out of room and clips the metal fencing, breaking his collarbone. Which brings up the surprising number of crashes, for what reason I don't know.

Faced with a steady stream of riders coming into the pit for free laps due to crashes, the officials upped their policing of the "legitimate mishap" rules. When Chris Wherry took a free lap for a wheel change, the officials found that the discarded wheel was in fact not leaking air at all. Whatever the circumstances were, the official decision was to disallow Chris' free lap, effectively costing him his 2nd place overall and moving the rest of us up one place each. All I can say is that I know Chris to be honest and certainly strong enough a pro that he wouldn't need a free lap for recovery reasons.

To the time bonus: Charles did a great job leading me out from half a lap to go. Last corner: Jonas (PrA) dives our inside and leads it out of the turn. I pull nearly even with him at 100m to go and whilst sprinting full out I muster the words "lemmee have it to pass Eric" (since I was set for at least 3rd and 3 seconds, I was passing Jonas' teammate Danny anyway).

Meanwhile Eric surprised both of us by coming up hard on the other side of Jonas. It was very close at the line and I didn't learn who got what 'til after the race. I took 5 sec for 2nd and Eric 3 sec for 3rd. So even if my friend Jonas had eased off the throttles, it was impossible to make up my 6 sec deficit on Eric. The Wohlbergian not only time-trials like an express train he can also sprint when it counts! Post race, Jonas joked that he can't do algebra and sprint at the same time.

In the final sprint Greg Henderson proved himself again by winning the duel for Jonas' wheel on the last lap. Jonas had a better kick out of the last turn. All the way down the final straight Greg gained on him and at the line it was a photo finish bike-throw, with Jonas taking the race by a millimeter.

Team 7UP/NutraFig showed well at Solano, (especially compared to last year!) with 3rd & 5th overall, 2nd on Team classification, the KOM jersey, and 2 podium finishes out of 3 races.

Doug is in surprisingly good spirits. If he had to break a bone, at least it was just prior to his scheduled month without racing. We're all sure he' ll be chomping a the bit for the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico at the beginning of May. Next up for me: 19 days home, then Shelby NC Athens GA and then on to Gila. 'Til then!

p.s. Thanks to all my readers who come up to me and encourage me to continue writing this diary. I jumble grammatical tenses and sometimes sink into monotonous blow-by-blow recountings in an effort to explain the tactics underpinning the results. Some readers like my stuff because I try to do this, others just want to hear about the life of a pro cyclist. Even if US racing isn't even close to the glamour of the Euro pro scene.


Making the break - Solano stage 1 & 2 (March 28)