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.

Going after the Big Four

Redlands Bicycle Classic, March 13-17, 2002

Team 7UP/NutraFig for Redlands is:

Charles Dionne (Can)
Hayden Godfrey (NZl)
Greg Henderson (NZl)
John Lieswyn
Kevin Monahan
Oscar Pineda
Clark Sheehan
Doug Ziewacz

And of course Jeff (manager), Chad (mechanic) and Steph (soigneur).

Tight economy. Budget shortfalls. No UCI points or Euro teams. Who needs the stuffy continentals anyway? A mainstay of the US racing calendar is back regardless and it's well attended by the riders and media. This is what I've worked hard all winter for. To come out firing on all cylinders. Work in, results out. It doesn't always work that way, as luck can come into the equation (just ask Sunderland or O'Grady).

March 13: Mt. Rubidoux Time Trial

Charles is first off, I'm third. Put the time trial first in a stage race and I always struggle. At Beauce last year the TT was like stage 6, and I pulled out a second place. A TT that starts out the race, especially in March, is my achilles heel and usually I turn around 30th place. With this in mind I trained four hours yesterday to crank my body up. I tried this strategy last year for nationals but it backfired thanks to the over 100 degree heat.

I nailed the technical turns, caught my thirty second man halfway up, and finished strangely untapped. Last year I was coughing up a lung. 9:13, good for 9th place finish. The women's winner Genevieve Jeanson was only 0:10 slower than me. Amazing. My team-mate Doug Z turned a 9:07 but a timing error somehow gave him a 9:30.


March 14: Highland Circuit Race, 82 km

Without the UCI rules hamstringing the race, we were able to return to the traditional 52mi technical course. I love uphill sprints so I was keen to make the lead group today. Klasna (Saturn) Sayers (Mercury) Zabriskie (USPS) got away pretty early and Horner set his whole team on the front. When Jansen (Saturn) went across on the hill making the break four men, their lead increased to 0:45 and stayed there. As the Prime Alliance squad began to unravel under the chasing pressure, Navigators lent their hand. Doug Z and I both had a whack at trying to get across the gap with five and four laps remaining, respectively.

Two to go: Horner and a couple Navigators are all that's left in the chase, but the gap is back down to 30 seconds. With one to go, Horner blasted across to the leaders and the field strung out big time trying to stay with him. We're all together at 1500 meters, last turn onto the finish/hill straightaway. I'm way too far back, around 40th (51 guys left at this point). Jeff is yelling in my earpiece "lead out Charles, guys" and Doug Z is doing just that at the front. I've written myself off but Greg Henderson comes by and tells me to get on his wheel. Blocking the strong wind from the left, Greg takes me past 30 guys, I'm spinning a light gear to stay fresh. At the bottom of the hill, 400m to go, I'm now 10th. Still too far back since this year the wind is making the sprint single file instead of 10 abreast. I'm using all my gas to get by one rider at a time, and meanwhile Horner is putting the screws on at the front. Over the top I've taken everyone but Chris, and I have to settle for second. Thanks to Greg, else I'd have been pack fill in this finish.


March 15: Sun Oak Glen Road Race, 174 km

This race is always fun with the superb support the police motorbikes (CHP) give us. They leapfrog the peloton, shutting down sidestreets the whole way. I stayed near the front during the first hour, which has many turns and changes in gradient. Apparently there were a few crashes at the back, riders hitting cop cars and the like. We got Doug Z in the early break (which wasn't so early this year, escaping after two hours rather than usual 30 minutes. Horner's team rides well and holds the break under five minutes. The natural fight ensues in the final 10km before the climb and the gap comes down rapidly. It's now 2km to the base of the climb, Hayden takes me to the front and drills it all the way to the bottom, dropping me off first into the climb. He says there is still a crater left in the road where he exploded. I had a lackluster climb (relative to my expectations) finishing 10th on the stage. Seventh overall. Doug Z took enough points during the break to earn the sprint jersey. Clark came down really sick today and had to withdraw.


March 16: Downtown Criterium, 90/60 mins

I didn't do coffee but it didn't matter. I felt great and policed the front of the peloton for the first 75 minutes of the 90 minute race. Certainly I was too active, but I couldn't resist. It's been a long time since the legs felt like they are nuclear powered. It was cold but the rain held off. On the last lap Greg was mixing it up with Henk and Gord (both Mercury) and they had a three-bike-length lead, two turns to go. Henk finished his leadout, Gord and Greg blew their line in the corner and Charles shot out of the front of the field, dove the inside and flew past them. Charles wins! The papers the next day continue the trend of ignoring our team, continually excluding 7UP/NutraFig from the hallowed list of the "big 4" teams. It doesn't seem to matter that Charles is currently Number One ranked on the NRC. Or that we are ahead of two of those big teams on the overall here. I like it this way. More fuel for the fire!


March 17: Sunset Road Race 142 km

This will be one of the most interesting races I've ever done. Chris Horner is super strong but his team is very tired. When they wear out, will he be able to control two USPS and four Saturn riders all on his own? Who do I go with? The attackers will be McRae, Zabriskie (USPS) Peterson, Klasna, Wohlberg and Jansen (Saturn). Will Roland Green go with them or stay with Horner? No threat to the overall but certainly factors on this course are Wherry, Moninger (Mercury) Swindlehurst, Baldwin, Walters (Navigators).