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John Lieswyn
Photo: © 7Up/Maxxis

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.

San Fran Part I: Dramas, dramas

San Rafael Classic, September 13, 2003

Hello readers!

How embarrassing. While waiting for my iced tea at a nearby shop, I was reading the only thing handy: People magazine's issue on whether the "Bennifer" (Ben & JLo) relationship would survive until the rumored wedding. It's the kind of rag that you find in the checkout lane, and a far cry from my current read, the political satire "Lies...A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right" by Al Franken. Whereupon some CN readers recognized me (ME??) and asked for my autograph. It wasn't until after they'd left that I realized that the page was open to "Stars visit Strip Clubs" page!

It's been a tough week for me leading up to San Francisco. First I lost my cool in a local race in North Carolina. It's not in my nature normally; that day I was suffering from anger management issues. For my friends and fans back at home in North Carolina (I consider Asheville, NC home), I apologize to you as I did to the poor guy on the receiving end of my wrath, and assure you it wasn't nearly as bad as some rumors have it. The case is resolved and closed, and I look forward to trying to live up to expectations.

On Monday, after a hard day's work on my house (rented out), my old friend Joe Coddington and I did the ascent of highway 151 to the base of Mt. Pisgah on the Blue Ridge Parkway. With no traffic, a comfortable gradient that even a beginner could manage in a 39x23, and the kind of spectacular "calendar cover" scenery that the Blue Ridge is famous for, it is a cyclist's dream ride. Tuesday was another long day of work followed by the trip to my in-laws house in Charlotte. On the way I got the kind of phone call I've dreaded. My wife said she was hit by a car while cycling home from work. Thank God that she is pretty much OK, with a light concussion being the worst of her injuries. While the motorist was clearly at fault (going so far as to admit it) no ticket was issued. When I have time, I'll be down at police headquarters asking what kind of standard is being adhered (or not) to in right of way accident cases. For any person whose career has them traveling a lot, getting a call from your spouse in urgent need is extremely difficult. Thousands of miles from home, you feel powerless.

Finally, my Doberman "Closer" came down sick. Having a veterinarian wife wasn't much help because her "differentials" list sounded very ominous (hypothyroidism, kidney failure, etc), and I didn't sleep well until she called me here in California to say that initial results were a easily treated infection.

After all that, I was looking forward to a return to normalcy and hopefully a good ride this weekend.

San Rafael Classic

Cycling sportswriter John Alsedek says that the US Calendar is mainly comprised of "a sea of 60 minute criteriums" and in some regions this seems to be true. Not to nitpick, but most are actually 90 minutes, and today's warm-up event felt MUCH longer. With the heat in the mid 90s (F) and a fierce opening pace of about 55kph, I wondered if I should just drop out early and save strength for tomorrow.

Many breakaways looked good with representatives from all the strong teams in attendance, including Sierra Nevada, Navigators, 7UP/Maxxis, Saturn, Prime Alliance, Healthnet, and Schroeder Iron. Inevitably, one or more teams would miss the move and with the heat, the breakaways couldn't seem to work together long enough to get out of sight. I had just told my teammates over the radio that I thought it would come to a field sprint when I found myself in a big breakaway of at least 15 guys. Having witnessed a start/finish line crash involving John Peters and Gord Fraser which also claimed about a half dozen others, and another near crash between myself and a Navigator rider (claiming only my shoe in his spokes), I was a bit skittish about taking chances. Typically, once this big break got a significant gap, the race finally slowed down to an average of under 50kph.

Horner was definitely showing his cards today. If there was a prime for most number of laps led, he would have had it wrapped up. His performance today was reminiscent of the Merced Criterium in March, where he dominated the race as if to say "Not only did I just waste you all in this short one, but wait 'til tomorrow!". (He went on to kill us in the Sunday road race too).

Nine laps to go. The first attacks split up the break, and while I have our Doug Z (in his last weekend of professional racing, ever) up there, it isn't optimal numbers for us. I'm 100m off the back of the break with four others and nobody will pull.

Seven laps to go. I coax and cajole them into a small pull each, and with a lack of purpose slowing the ten men ahead we are soon back on.

Three laps to go. Chris Wherry (Navigators) has three teammates in the break and takes a big turn on the front to wind it up for them, keeping the break intact for a sprint finish. To salve my dry cottonmouth, I go for my waterbottle and find just a drop of Cytomax left. Rats.

One lap to go. Wherry is done and Wohlberg takes over for his teammate Rapinski, the Belarussian Concussion. I'm 4th wheel behind Sayers (Healthnet). I don't hear it, but later find out that a Navigator rider lost traction behind us and took out four guys including Doug and Horner.

Half lap to go. Jeff is shouting into my earpiece, "Stay on Rapinski! Stay on Rapinski!" Sayers makes a move going into turn three (of four) and gets around Viktor. It's a brave move, perhaps the only way to beat the Saturn sprinter, but also risks giving him a perfect leadout. I'm thinking of the big race tomorrow and how much crashing hurts (I've heard sprinters often say that they "turn off" their brain in the final kilometers) so I open a slight gap ahead of me and wait to see if they are going to make it through these last two turns at 65kph. Miguel Meza (Schroeder Iron) has no such misgivings and takes my caution as an invitation to jump around me, and that ends up being our finish order as Viktor gets around Mike for the win.

1 Viktor Rapinksi (Saturn)
2 Mike Sayers (Healthnet)
3 Miguel Meza (Schroeder Iron)
4 little ol' non-bunch-sprintin' me.

'til tomorrow,

p.s. I was happy to see Malcolm Elliot on the start line...helped him repin his number to US standards (been awhile, eh Malcolm?). A star of the US scene in the mid 90's he was forced into retirement when his team suffered financial collapse in 1997. He looks as lean and fit as ever, and I hope he finds a contract to race here in 2004 as he's a class act and tough competitor.


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