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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 stages in the Sun Tour, Killington and Superweek. In 2003, he is once again riding for 7Up, this year co-sponsored by tyre maker Maxxis.
Tour de Toona, part 2: Valiant breakaway, fairness & more
Johnstown Circuit Race; 9am start, 3 laps, 75 miles
My teammates were up at six am for breakfast, but with an hour time difference to Iowa I just couldn't pull that off. At seven I crawled out of bed and grabbed a quick bite at the hotel buffet, and at 7:15 the van was on the road for the hour-long trip to Johnstown.
Just after the sprint at the end of the first lap, a Snow Valley and a Webcor pair attacked. Between a spate of flats on Saturn and Navigators, their lead quickly mushroomed. Meanwhile we put our Chris Pic in a four-man chase group in hopes of making a big move on team GC. Having Chris up the road also meant we had a free ride in the pack.
Gotta hand it to the break; our man and his three companions didn't make much of a dent in their lead and were eventually caught, while the best efforts of the yellow jersey's team and us (trying to set up Oscar for a stage win) came up about 35 seconds short at the line. With Sierra Nevada throwing in some horsepower too, we were railing it at about 60kph the last 10kms. With 5km to go it was still 1:40, so we did pretty good to take back 1:05 in such a short distance. Oscar easily out sprinted Horner, who had O'Neill leading him out for the potentially valuable 5 second time bonus awarded to third across the line.
Hey, that's not FAIR!
For my next bit, I'm reminded by something the very experienced but oddly not clued in Steve Tilford asked me about during the Minnesota race earlier this year. He asked why the pro teams had the "right" to line their guys up in neat little "team only" groups at the front. I didn't bother giving him a straight answer, but here it is for everyone we compete against. It's not a matter of "rights", it's that we ride in line and every time somebody else tries to butt in, we instantly execute a squeeze maneuver by passing and then rather forcefully slowing down in front of the offender. Why was it Navigators first, then Saturn, then 7UP/Maxxis today? Well, let's see. Navigators has the race leader. Saturn is second and third on GC, and we had a guy up the road (and six guys riding together with no intent of letting anyone else in front of us). If you think that this is just unfair pro teams ganging up on the amateurs and only something that happens here, you are right and wrong. Right because we are in essence ganging up, and wrong because it is this way in all higher level stage racing. Watch any of the Tour coverage?
Tomorrow: Blue Knob
I'm feeling better now so tomorrow should be exciting. Hopefully it won't be another Saturn Super Kids (or Triumvirate) dog and pony show. It's getting gruesome watching Navigators take the early lead just to defend until haplessly getting clobbered on the major climb of the day (Georgia and Minnesota come to mind). We have the major climb up to Blue Knob (don't laugh) at 110km (73mi) into the stage, which will eliminate many riders from contention. Unless the Triumvirate runs away with it there, the race should be won on the tough little rollers that comprise the final 20km. We get to finish in my favorite suburban type of area, a barren shopping mall parking lot, yeah!
The street outside our hotel is the typical six-lane zero-sidewalk suburban hell zone, lined with car dealerships, dozens of fast food joints, and other detritus of a car-based society like auto repair shops and tire stores. There are no reasonably functioning hotels in "downtown" so we haven't a choice. As I cruised along this jam packed highway at 30kph on my bike yesterday, scoping for a place to eat, I was swerved and honked at several times. Sticks and stones… comes to mind. Anyway, I was searching for the bagel shop that last year had opened up here and saved me from culinary purgatory. Upon finding it vacant and closed, I looked around and saw another tell tale sign of a failed attempt to lift the health of central PA residents: the large Weight Loss & Exercise Center across the street was also vacated. The giant fast food chain boards of directors are snickering at the wholesale failure of middle America to embrace healthier meal choices. Sure, Baja Fresh is a big hit in health conscious western USA, but definitely not here. Could it be?
The International this, that and the other
To USA race promoters; you can't call your race the "International" unless there actually are internationals competing. Foreigners riding on US teams don't count. In that sense the last "International" event I did, more commonly known as Superweek, actually deserved its moniker by virtue of the sixteen (or so) strong "EuroDisney Combine" (credit to Jonas Carney for coining that) who were in attendance. Also thanks to the high level of competition and great history of Superweek, it deserves far more NRC (national ranking) points than it receives from USA Cycling. There you go Otto, I meant to put that in my entry "Ruminations" but ran out of espresso the night I was typing that one.
Thanks for reading and all your too-kind emails. I'm sorry if you don't get a response but it's harder to answer them all during a stage race. 'Til tomorrow, then!
Email John at email@example.com