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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.

Coors Light '88

4th Solano Bicycle Classic, Fairfield, CA, March 27-30, 2003, part 2

"Coors Light '88!" That's what my teammates say any time something is "dope" or whenever they want to make fun of how long I've been doing this. In fact it was '92-'94 for me, but "Coors Light '93!" doesn't sound as catchy, I suppose. I'm thinking of it now because as I sit here typing away on a four pound sub-notebook listening to 50 Cent on Doug's iPod, I'm struck by all the differences. I bet every team van headed south right now is filled with the glows from iPods, laptops, and cell phones. Matt DeCanio, on the other hand, is probably in the lap of Mercedes luxury while listening to probably the same rap I am. And he probably knows the words by heart. He probably isn't following his team director at 1 mph above the speed limit, holding up a long line of impatient Californian drivers who haven't driven the speed limit since they took their driver's tests, like we are.

Well, Solano is over. Here's the quick summary of the last two stages

Stage 3 - March 29: GeniSoy Criterium, 90/60 min

Going hard, despite
Photo: © Jeff Tse
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Stage 3 was a 90 minute downtown Fairfield criterium. Why does San Fran get a quarter million spectators and this race gets 100? Lance. A community that doesn't depend on automobiles. People that live downtown and can walk to see the race. Any other reasons? I heard "I had to do my taxes today" and I saw lots of people car shopping, house shopping, polishing their cars in the driveway, working on their houses, but not a lot of people walking or biking. Just a few blocks from the suburban shopping center we've used all week is another huge and startlingly modern strip mall. It has a new parking lot and stuccoed storefronts for at least fifty businesses. Only problem is that there is plywood covering every single one of the windows, not even a 'For Lease' sign. You can see the shadow of the former tenants: 'State Farm Insurance', 'Radio Shack' 'Albertsons Food/Drug' and so on. The absolute failure of local government coupled with greed led to this blight on the Fairfield community. Meanwhile they continue to stake 'Commercial Acreage For Sale/Lease" signs farther and farther out into the pristine valleys. Escaping what? Immigrants of a lower socioeconomic class?

ANYWAY, this is supposed to be about bike racing. I only digressed because in order to race, you have to train, and this is the stuff that we see all over the USA today. So, the criterium. We had big plans for Hayden and Greg today. Halfway through the race Horner managed to single handedly drop the entire field when we were moving along at over 30mph (50kph). It took a few laps for him to be caught (or he sat up, I don't know which). A few laps later he did another huge turn at the front and created a large split in the field. There were about 15 men off; Horner had four teammates and we had our National criterium champ Kevin, Doug, and myself there. Unfortunately for us, Kevin has come down sick and while I didn't know it yet I was also succumbing to my first head cold since sinus surgery last November. To top it off, I flatted with five and half laps to go and kinda blew it by not taking a free lap. I was freaked out by the pit official who essentially called me a liar earlier in the race. I'd had to take a free lap after being forced off the course in a near crash situation. So I tried to ride the softening rear tire to the finish. With two laps to go I couldn't ride it any longer and did a three second bike change at the pit. 7UP/Maxxis mechanic (and let me say it now while I have a chance: this guy is the most meticulous hardest working wrench I've ever worked with) Chad Grochowina had it all set up but even so I simply couldn't go from near zero to 28mph quick enough and I had to struggle alone between the break and the field until the finish. I was especially down about it because I lost precious GC time that could have helped me up into the top 10. Ah well, it's not about getting ninth GC: it's about third or better at least. I should have recognized the signs of the day: persistent sneezes I attributed to allergies and the inability to exceed 25mph on those last two laps.

Kevin was really down after the race. He didn't fare too well in the sprint despite Doug's best leadout efforts. On a normal day for Kevin he wouldn't have been worse than third even going up against five Saturn riders, but being sick he just couldn't breathe.


Stage 4 - March 30: Daily Republic Circuit Race, 82/60 miles

I woke up Sunday morning also unable to breathe freely, and there was blood coming out of my nose. Not good. I was really looking forward to continuing my quick ascent to top form with a great ride in one of my favorite types of races: the technical and hilly circuit course known as Rancho Solano. The course winds its way through two large suburban developments, and brings the sport into the front yards of hundreds of families. With the speeds we hit there was definitely a strong wow factor for the kids.

We lost Doug early to a crash: he's basically okay but needs stitches in his arm. Jason is still trying to find fitness again after his horrific crash at training camp. Kevin was out pretty early too, feeling pretty sick. So we were down to five guys and while I was worsening literally by the minute, with my throat glands coming up fast, I figured I could cover a few moves for the team. Halfway in I could sense the break point was coming up and I jumped from a hundred guys back to the head of the field at a lull. Next thing I knew I was trying hard to hold Brent Dawson's (Jelly Belly) wheel as he just DIALED it up on the descent through the neighborhood. We had seven guys away pretty quickly, and Saturn was happy with Mark McCormack policing the break. Of course with the race leader on his team, Mark didn't need to work with the other six of us. I could see how much coming down sick was sapping from me. Literally down by 20 percent I was doing everything I could just to pull through. One of the interesting parts of pushing yourself in this kind of state is that occasionally a flash of normalcy will return, such as when Sayers or McCormack would go full tilt trying to split the break on the hill. I didn't have much problem covering those attacks. So I'm confident that after a few days I should recover from this and be back on track.

We were caught with 4km remaining and I got to watch the sprint setup from 50 guys back. With four turns to go Horner was leading Ivan, Gord and our Greg. I heard that it was either a bobble from another rider, Ivan purposely opening a gap, or just Horner dialing it up so hard that even Ivan couldn't hold on. Whatever the cause, the effect was another stage win for Horner. Greg second, Gord third.


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