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Dauphiné Libéré
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John Lieswyn
Photo: © Jeff Tse

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 2004, he moves from 7Up/Maxxis to Team Health Net presented by Maxxis.

T-Mobile International, San Francisco, USA, September 12, 2004

Another 'almost' at San Fran

DD and I flew in together a few days before the race so I could get acclimated and we could see some of our friends in the city. On the day we flew in I tried to ride in the cloudy section of the city known as Sunset district, and for the first time in years my knee hurt so sharply that I wondered how I was going to surmount 22 steep climbs in the race. The next day I dressed warmly as it was just 50 degrees and cloudy leaving Sunset. By the time I'd crossed the Golden Gate into Marin, it was turning fine out. Half an hour from the base of Mt. Tamalpais, I was stuffing jersey pockets with extra clothes as the temps rose over 80. On the slopes of the mountain the knee was no better. There is so little traffic out here that you can set your bike down, lay out in the middle of the road, and have a good stretch without fear of a car coming round the bend. I saw one car in 45 minutes! Despite numerous stops to try and stretch out whichever muscle was causing the knee pain, it just wouldn't go away.

In the meeting the night before the race, we agreed that while we'd 'made' a lot of races through aggressive riding all season, 'making' a race is not winning. Nonetheless we again got five guys in the early break. The effect is that nobody else in the break will pull but the possibility exists that we can eliminate a lot of favorites and leave a couple teammates way out front as the race draws to the finale. I'd made the break, and was feeling good, but apprehensive about my prospects of finishing after having had knee pain earlier this week. I couldn't tell if the knee was better due to a relaxation of the IT band through massage therapy or if it was the adrenaline of the race, but now we needed some quick decisions. Jeff had drawn dead last in the managers meeting, so he was stuck way back in traffic and our radios weren't working.

As the eldest members of our team in the break, Mike Sayers and I decided who needed to work and who was to save it for the finale, based on how each of the five of us were riding on the hills. With my knee I volunteered to sacrifice, while Mike always seems to pick the domestique duty. Of the other three, Jason was obviously riding strongly and it looked like Pate has come around as well. Here I made an error; I decided to save Mike Jones. Had we put him into the worker mix, it would have kept Sayers fresh and rotating with me longer, and given our other two guys a bigger time cushion for the finish. The old cliché about hindsight applies here. My ride was one of my best of the year. After Mike Sayers was done I continued driving the break nearly single handedly for another four laps, eking out a few seconds at a time over the peloton. Nearing the end of my reserves, I was getting dropped on the brutally steep Fillmore and thought my day was done, but the announcer was lying in the street screaming encouragement at me into his microphone, and the crowd roared. I made it back onto the back of the break through a huge effort and ended up pulling the entire next lap. I was unquestionably done the next time around and when Jeff passed me in the team car, giving me a big thumbs up, I felt really good. I felt even better as I rolled around the course on cool down, and watched my work payoff as Jason shelled a breakaway that had sat on all day.

There were a lot of factors that conspired to result in a very, very near miss for Team Health Net presented by Maxxis today, and it was an agonizing finish for us as Jason went from a four-minute lead to being caught in the last five kms. Not the least factor was a superb ride from Horner as he and USPS cranked it up for eventual winner Charles Dionne.

Prior to the race, team sponsors put on a real spread for us at the fancy historic Spa hotel in Oakland. Some of us got up at the dinner and personally brought the sponsors up to date on what has been a very successful season for the team. DD and I squeezed into a compact Saturn with Jason, Andrea and two of their relatives for a drive across the Bay Bridge into the city for what is now becoming our traditional sushi dinner. We took BART train back across and then a taxi to our room at the Spa. In the morning Crusty (Jeff) was decidedly un-Crusty in agreeing to go out of his way to drop DD and me and all our stuff off at the ferry terminal… we headed back into the city for another night at a friends house. After that it was direct to Tobago.


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