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

Langkawi memories from LAX

LAX Airport, Wednesday February 18, 2004

Genting really hurt
Photo ©: Mark Gunter

I'm sitting in the LAX airport lounge, feeling rotund from munching on peanuts and cookies. With a seven-hour layover until my next overnight flight (settin' a record here for longest trip ever), I've taken advantage of the downtime to catch up on US newspapers and CNN.

I no longer have the clarity to write a play by play, but that's not why most of you read my entries anyway. So here is an overall wrap-up:

Shocking foliage.

The all-white clothed Japanese national champion, Fukushima, had just attacked for the umpteenth time when a large brown leaf fluttered down and landed across my helmet and sunglasses. Imagine my fright as I plucked the leaf away when it turned out that it wasn't a leaf but a huge tropical insect. It buzzed in my grasp for a second as I tried to shake it free. It's pretty hard to simultaneously maintain control in a dense pack of racers traveling 55kph while FREAKING OUT.

Switching it up.

Gord has the blue points jersey wrapped up. Since Gord had crashed hard in stage 9, I proposed for stage 10 the possibility of a switch to working for Greg Henderson. Halfway through the stage Gord made the decision to have Greg go for it today. While everyone else thought we did fine, as the man who made the decision when to start the lead-out, I feel like I caved and began the lead-out too early, at 10km to go. This super technical circuit did call for an earlier than usual hit-out, but in hindsight it's fairly obvious that I simply panicked again. Even as a D3 team, we have the horsepower to blow by Panaria, Formaggi Pinzolo, Lampre, et al.

Even with the mistake, Greg blew past Quaranta for second. A badly scraped up (from a crash in stage 7 or 8) Bongiorno (Panaria) could not be beaten today, although Greg feels he was coming up on him strongly and just needed a few more meters. As is the nature of the sport and as any of us would when we don't take first place, Gord second guessed himself afterwards and wondered what may have been if he had just been more confident. Regardless, Greg's runner-up finish is not only HUGE but also just reward for his work this week. A bit like a D3 version of Cipo giving Lombardi a break after having broken the record for Giro stage wins.

Some of the fans.

Two thirty-something American men, expatriate workers for a US conglomerate, excited to make contact with countrymen. One of my teammates was in a hurry to do whatever it is that we do every single day, be it putting on a radio or finding a plastic portajohn or whatever. He blew these two guys off. Although my head cold made me want to not move one centimeter off the back seat of the now sweltering car, I watched as these guys backed slowly away, unsure of themselves and their reception. I crawled out of the car and took advantage of the chance to talk with them. Not that my scatterbrains can remember much of what they said about being American and living in a foreign country.

Two twenty-something Malay men, both from Pulau Penang (where we began this adventure). They spoke excellent English and excitedly asked if we liked Malaysia and Malaysian food.

A Muslim family. The headscarved wife walked half a pace behind her husband and a gaggle of kids bounced around with them. The husband carried a high-end digital camera. I posed with the oldest kid and then the husband while the wife snapped pictures. A younger child cried when his dad tried to pose the kid in the lap of one of us.

The expatriate from Virginia and his wife at LAX on the way to Malaysia. Their patient and gentle golden retriever, sitting at their feet and unconcerned about the prospect of 16 hours in a noisy airplane hold. The couple told us that pets, especially dogs, are so rare that when the retriever rides in their car in Malaysia with it's nose out the window, Malay kids point and shout as if it were a Bengal tiger. The expatriate works for Petronas Oil and didn't know about the bike race happening under his nose and around the base of the world-famous skyscraping towers where he works.

Close calls.

The "Polis" did a great job of escorting us safely throughout the busy industrialized nation, over city, regional and national highways. However, sometimes they became a hazard themselves (albeit far less dangerous than the errant cars which we have become accustomed to racing with in the USA).

The officers persisted in standing about 50m before all forks in the road, whistling and waving a red flag. Sounds easy to spot and avoid, eh? Well, when your heart is pounding at 180, all your senses are attuned to the wheels and bodies all around you, your ears are processing info from the team car, etc. etc., then the last thing you expect before a median strip is a leather clad motorcycle cop appearing in the MIDDLE of the bunch.

A patch of striped concrete and/or grass is somehow much easier to navigate around than the whistling cop! In one case I saw the tenth of a second aftermath of a rider/cop collision. The brave officer was tucking and rolling, still clutching the red flag, while the rider and bike scraping on the ground were rapidly becoming an obstacle to my continued progress.

I had to dive hard to the right, hoping that nobody was overlapping on my rear wheel, and poke my way between two police motorbikes blocking the WRONG WAY. Then I had to scream at some unwitting spectators while trying to re-accelerate from 20kph back onto the 55kph peloton, which was winding up for the final sprint. Just for some perspective, all this took place in the space of about three seconds!

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