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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 II: Rubber legs and mighty Horner

T-Mobile International, September 14, 2003

John Leiswyn (7-Up) drills it to try and bring back the Saturns, but it's too late.
Photo ©: Emory Ball

Well, I'm prescient and blinded at the same time. After yesterday's clinic by Horner, I told him on the start line today that I was just going to follow him around! Today is eight big laps including the brutal ascents of Fillmore and Taylor, followed by four small laps with just Taylor St. The weather is much cooler than yesterday, very windy and overcast. Several times we'd come through a corner to be hit by a strong blast of wind that would threaten to lift your bike out from under you.

Seven big laps to go: peloton has split but is coming back together.

I unwittingly nearly took Lance out! He called me "number 71" apparently not recognizing me. Whatever. A couple k's later I flatted my rear tire in a corner, right in front of him and nearly washed out. He was by now getting fairly pissed at me, and I'm reminded of how when I'm the big fish in a small pond I get angry at riders who are threatening me with their bike handling. Another resolution: keep my mouth shut in such situations! It was a long wheel change and the pace was on, so it took me a good 8km to catch back up. By the time I'd rejoined the peloton, the big break of the day was gone. Initially comprising five leaders and 12 chasers, we only had our Chris Pic up there to fly the flag.

Five big laps to go: peloton 5:15 down

Chris has been dropped from the second group ahead. Our Hayden Godfrey gets on the front with Lance and a couple other Posties, driving the pace up from a lackadaisacal 20mph to nearly 30mph.

Three big laps (about 35 miles) to go: peloton is 3:30 behind leaders

Lance has dropped out, his men have stopped chasing, and Saeco has been setting tempo for a while now. We decide that it's time to make the race and our Kiwis get on the front for a hard half lap, leading the rest of us right into the base of Fillmore. The crowd is so loud that I can't hear anything on my radio, but I'm assuming that the rest of the team is right behind me. Halfway up the stair-stepping climb I get the impression that I'm alone, since there is no pressure on either side of me from overtaking riders. Looking back I see this is the case. It would be the only time today that I would lead any group over the climb, very much unlike last year. I just don't seem to have any climbing legs today. Perhaps Alsedek is right, with only 90 minute criteriums it's hard to be prepared for such a tough 108 mile race as this. But how would that explain the sensational ride that 25 year old Jason Lokkesmoe (Healthnet) is having today? Jason has been away all day with Rolf Aldag (Telekom) and apparently he's been doing the majority of the work on the climbs! And today's result will show that US domestic racing is sufficient to prepare a rider...

I ask Horner whether he's having a bad day or going to show his cards soon. He says that when the leaders are five minutes ahead he isn't going to do anything, but the gap is now under three minutes.

Two big laps to go

Horner attacks hard on Fillmore. It's the kind of climb where an attacker can have two bike lengths over the summit, but if he keeps accelerating while everyone behind gasps for air, his lead can balloon ridiculously fast. This is what happens, as by the bottom of the next stretch he has caught a couple Saecos and a Jelly Belly who have been struggling in between the peloton and the break.

Last ascent of Fillmore

I'm just unable to climb fast today and it's bumming me out, but I won't quit. I've taken a long turn at the front with a couple Navigators in successful pursuit of the second group, with the thought that the race may end up in a large bunch kick for the line. In such a scenario the two teammates I have left (Kevin and Brice) are both more likely to deliver a result than yours truly. Unfortunately both of those guys begin to cramp right around the time that I'm pulling hard on the front. McCormack (Saturn) flies off the front of the splintering bunch. How can he do that? I wished I knew what kind of racing/training he's been doing for preparation. Perhaps I'm just having a bad day.

Final small circuits: Horner is away by 1:00 and McCormack is about 0:35 ahead

I'm not fading much so when three guys set off in pursuit of third, fourth and fifth placings I'm quick to respond. Just not quick enough, as I don't quite get their draft and end up in no man's land between them and the peloton JUST before the final ascent of Taylor St. I'm going down kickin' though.

I'm caught as we turn onto Taylor and the three guys I was pursuing don't look like they are going to make it either. The peloton shatters and my effort to get away has cost me. The legs are rubbery now as are many others around me. A Navigator rider has a chain skip or something and crashes down on his top tube next to me, screaming in pain. Over the top the bunch has split into three or four segments of 15 or so riders each. I'm alone for 7UP in the second one. Nobody to work for and nobody to pull for me; and it seems that the riders around me are resigned to minor placings.

Horner wins and actually continues on for a few hundred meters believing he still has another lap to go. McCormack has done an amazing ride to hold off the bunch for second, and evergreen Ekimov wins the field sprint for the last podium placing. It's not exactly an upset result, seeing as how Horner is the number one ranked US rider and McCormack is reigning USPRO road champion. But the euro heavies didn't crush everyone either. I'd say that the euros (like ourselves) were behind the eight ball all day and found themselves forced to chase or let the race go away. The Saturn boys were cagey, never really did a team chase (that I saw, anyway) and saved as many bullets as they could for the finish. Hats off to them!

I don't know if my middling ride here will affect my selection for world's, but I still think I can do a good job for Hincapie in Hamilton. I hope that I'll get to go so I can at least redeem myself in another major race before the long winter break. Even if I won the Vuelta Sinaloa (starting next week) it's thousands of miles away and off the radar screen for most people. I don't know how much a good ride in Sinaloa would salve the disappointment from San Fran. Keepin' the chin up, though!

End of an era

Today was the last professional race for our Doug Ziewacz. Farewell buddy, even your caustic sense of humor (mostly at my expense!) will be sorely missed next year. We all wish you the best of luck in "the real world".

It was also the last race for several US professional teams. The tight economy is hitting cycling sponsorship hard, despite Lance's success in the Tour. Fortunately I do have a racing job for 2004, and hope that it will be my best season ever.


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