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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.
Kansas City surprise
40th Annual Tour of Kansas City
I hitched a ride down to Kansas City with my occasional training partner Eric Nonecke. His family has a huge SUV that they use for its intended purpose: hauling a tremendous amount of people and stuff, so I took advantage by stretching out on the floor for a nap. Once in KC I put the digicam to use, snapping pics of the beautiful hundred year old manses that surrounded the Cliff Drive area. Apparently KC suburbanites are very fearful of this part of the city; some of us were warned what we could and couldn't do around here. I didn't see anything scary. In fact this race is partially funded by the neighborhood itself as a showcase event. We did get lost afterward and ended up in a "project", but it was beautiful! Yes, we were the only whites around, there was some trash blowing about and a few badly damaged cars, but there were kids riding bikes on wide sidewalks, playing ball in community fields, and the apartments themselves weren't the glaringly ugly high rise projects of the 70's. These were like brick townhomes, with balconies and pretty wrought iron fences. (Rather than cheaper chain link, which can look a bit prison-like).
Saturday: Cliff Drive Circuit Race, 50 miles (80km)
The race course was beautiful, a championship-quality 2.6 mile loop. With some of the neighborhood funding the organizers could hire seventeen police to ensure full closure, yet thanks to the surrounding neighborhood street design there were ways for residents to get around as well as permitting fans/racers to get in close and park.
Our plan was to lay low for the first few laps. Being the only pros meant that we would be thoroughly marked by the other seventy or so elite amateurs, so we planned to just let the race develop and allow attrition to narrow the field a bit first. It almost backfired on me. I was riding near the back when someone slid out on the hot, glassy pavement in a fast sweeping turn. My reflexes were like a turtle and even though I had tons of time to avoid the sliding victim, I skidded very close to the curb!
From nearly a full stop it took a while to chase back onto the fast-moving, single-file peloton. With the shot of adrenaline and having blown a few days' worth of slow training cobwebs out of the muscles, I began to feel better. Despite the plan, I started to panic when the bunch let a two man break go out of sight on lap three. With a very pointed glance back at Dan and Brice, I swung wide going into the switchback climb and dropped the proverbial hammer. From the resultant group of eight, we then proceeded to time trial the remaining two-thirds of the race. I tried hard to get rid of the two Mathis Brothers guys, Cate and Waddell. These guys have regular jobs but they're still tough to beat at the mid-West regional races! They just wouldn't crack no matter how hard I tried on the hill, so we left it up to Brice to take the sprint win.
Sunday: Overland Park Downtown Criterium
This was another great venue. The narrow streets of the old downtown area are lined with locally owned businesses, most of which were closed on Sunday. One that wasn't closed was the coffee shop right across from the start/finish line stage, and they did the best business of the year on race day. The course was seven turns. With temperatures in the 90s you wouldn't expect a wet road but for some reason there was a stream running across the road just before turn one and down the left side of the second straight. While I didn't see any crashes due to water in our race, the prior categories had the usual thrills and spills, including Wes, an Ames area rider who would be giving me a ride home today. Wes started the year as a beginner Cat 5 and today would be his last Cat 3 race. He crashed after getting his tires wet on the aforementioned straightaway, but got back in to win. With upgrade (to Cat 2) sticker in hand, he promptly lined up for our Pro 1/2 event! He didn't last long, but it's like a kid opening a present - he wants to play with it right away, eh?
We hoped to put on a show today and try to keep the race together for a while, but an early crash split the field apart. When we saw that all three of us 7UPs were together in a group of eight, that was it. I soloed the race to win, while Brice got a great lead-out from Dan to take second and the overall. While the field was lacking a bunch of pro level competition and the race was short, winning any race is hard. Going solo with a lead that hovered around 12 seconds for the last ten laps wasn't the easy way to do it either.
Some guys may be preparing for next week's showdown in Chicago by staying home, training long hours and/or motorpacing. Probably most guys were doing what we did, having fun at a regional race. My first visit to Kansas City left me looking forward to next year, when I hope Dawn can accompany me and we can spend an extra day checking out the museum and more of the old city. From what little I did see, I was quite surprised at how much there is to do and recommend it to anyone contemplating travel through America's mid-West!
Kansas City also hosted some kids' races so we were treated to sights like 8-12 year old kids lining up at the top of Cliff Drive for their 500m sprint to the line. Amongst all categories there must have been 120 kids! Too bad there still isn't a juniors category. It's a Catch 22 situation; no attendance killed separate 15-18 year old categories while no races takes away the incentive for kids to get really passionate about racing. The few remaining juniors end up racing in Cat 3-5 adult events.
Something KC club (the promoting club this weekend) members mentioned to me was that they'd like to take their 40 year old event and get it on the National Racing Calendar (NRC). What are the reasons for being on the calendar? 1. Prestige: it could help selling the race to the sponsors and media if you can claim NRC honors and proclaim that riders will be coming from the far reaches of the nation, not just the region. 2. Hopefully, with more elite and pro riders in attendance, it gives the best local riders a chance to learn from and showcase themselves in front of national level riders. 3. More competitive. Instead of a five man powerplay like we had this weekend it could be easier for the announcers to keep up the interest of the crowd. Although NYC's Danny Pate show had to be one of the most boring "schlam from the gun" races ever.
So, you want to be on the NRC. It seems that right now you have to meet a few requirements and then probably call up Matt Murphy at USACycling. The problem is that we have a schedule that is peppered with empty weekends on one hand, and other weeks that have massive conflicts. Why did attendance at Altoona drop off from over 190 pro/elite riders to 107? Although they tried this year to accommodate both, having NYC the same weekend couldn't help the field size. Hopefully USAC will continue encouraging prospective NRC events to fill those empty weekends instead of diluting existing, ranked races.
Email John at email@example.com