The John Lieswyn Diary

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John Lieswyn
Photo: © Phil Jolley

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.

A tactical retreat

Sequoia Cycling Classic - Visalia Criterium

March 10, 2002

On the morning coffee shop ride I felt pretty good, considering yesterday. The threatened rain has held off. We're fielding ten guys today, and our Kiwis, Greg and Hayden are starting to get over their 14 hour jet lag. Kevin is our man for the sprint today. After the first three NRC races of the year Charles hasn't been out of the top five and it would be good for him to continue scoring points. I'm not stressing about one of my personal goals, finishing on top of the NRC, because the season is long and the hardest races are still to come.

Poor start position at the back, but it takes me less than two laps and a huge effort to get to the top 10. It's very difficult to advance position on this course. You can be at the front in one turn and by the next turn you're thirty guys back as someone passes, dives the inside, and causes a chain reaction slowdown in front of you. The important thing is to look not at the guy ahead of you but five or ten guys ahead, in order to predict the sudden swerves and decelerations caused by the inside corner divebombers.

I'm covering a lot of breaks here, and halfway into the race I'm beginning to tire. While I'm catching my breath midpack John Peters (Prime Alliance) overlaps my rear wheel and crashes heavily. The sound is horrendous, but it's a testament to the bike handling skills of this field that the crash claims few victims. We miss a big break that has one or two of everyone and gets up to 12 seconds ahead, which is out of sight on all but the long start finish straightaway.

Team 7UP/Nutrafig shows its class by organizing a six man chase that in the course of three laps brings the escapees back. One of the members of the failed break, Chad Gerlach (Sierra Nevada) angrily asks why we didn't just launch a rider across instead of bringing the peloton together. Distribution of energy, Chad. if we could have done that we would've.

Other than that break, the only significant lead of the day is the solo escape of Glen Mitchell (Navigators). It's a valiant effort and he gets a good lead mainly because the everyone in the field is licking their wounds from the vicious pace. After a few laps' breather the pace is on again and Glen is brought back.

Four laps to go, I'm starting to make up positions. Three to go and I'm top 20, but there's no gas in my tank. On the one hand I'm weighing the need to get up there and use whatever is left in me to help Kevin, Charles and Oscar. On the other hand Redlands starts in three days and I can see that there will be crashes here. It wouldn't be good to have a premature end to what I think will be my best season ever, for the sake of this one good but not-so-important criterium. This is the kind of caution that I will dispense with when it comes to the US Pro title criterium in Chicago three months from now.

Backing off the throttles and swinging to the outside with two laps to go now. I jump on to the sidewalk and withdraw, along with a dozen other scaredy-cats. Coming up to the second turn I see that Gord Fraser (Mercury) has crashed hard. Luckily he gets up, apparently without serious injury. Charles later tells us that perhaps his BMX background helped because he bunny-hopped Gord's downed bike in a very close call, while Kevin and a few other favorites lost position big time.

Over at the finish line the announcer is calling the last lap. Every year there is a last lap last corner crash. Will it be different this year? NO! A Mercury rider goes in too hot and brings down several favorites, including Dave McCook (Prime Alliance). Nevertheless, Jonas Carney ends the Prime Alliance NRC podium drought by taking the win handily. His manager Kirk Willet has a look of total relief, and says "Phew, the pressure is off now." Charles once again delivers a solid result of fourth for 7UP/NutraFig.

Four hours drive to the Robertson's Sunset Drive mansion in Redlands, interrupted only for a Taco Fresh dinner. Next up: the first major stage race of 2002. 'Til then!

Results - Visalia criterium