Ask the experienced members of the American Peloton who they like for the San Francisco Grand Prix, and many of them mention 7-Up-Nutrafig's John Lieswyn. Lieswyn started racing in 1985 with the University of Florida collegiate club, and after finishing business school, took to the road. He's gone on to a brilliant, over fifteen year career, with seasons in Europe, and as a pro for most of the US pro teams through the years, and by his account "would not trade a single cold, wet day of it for any other lifestyle." Lieswyn is a master criterium racer, but he's also no slouch in the strongman/stage racer department, and this course should suit him. "Our hopes primarily rest with me," says Lieswyn of the 7-Up battle plan. "Fortunately, Charles (Dionne) is in good form, too, and we are looking for a reasonable ride from him, too."
Last year's San Francisco was a bit of a trial for the 7-Up team. Lieswyn came into it ready to ride hard: "I had won Thater and Clark (Sheehan) had won Hotter 'n Hell, so the team had won both NRC races in the two weeks before the GP last year. Clark ended up the same as me: I was so stoked and so fit that I trained four hours a day for the two weeks leading up to it. In cold rain. Then, I rode to to San Rafael the day before the SFGP, raced to 5th place (in a field sprint, no less) then rode back to downtown (85 miles, and I bonked. I woke up for the GP flat tired and coming down hard with a head cold. End story." John Lieswyn and Team 7-Up are hoping for a different story this year. "I think that between the course changes and my going into the race fresher than last year, I have a better chance this time." Says Lieswyn. "I'm personally disappointed to not have come up with a big breakthrough ride at a major event, so I'm definitely gunning for the SFGP."
With a big field stocked with primo opposition, what will it take for 7-Up to pull off the upset? "Winning the SFGP comes down to not only having a teammate in the final split to help cover attacks but also choosing the right guys to go with," says John. "I hear that George is fully recovered from his crash injuries so I'm sure that he'll be a favorite. Horner is bound to be good as well, since he's now training hard after his broken collarbone. And I won the last 3 races I entered, albeit against lesser competition, but it shows that I'm fit... It's just Doug (Ziewacz), Charles and I who have shots at being in the final selection. Our other guys are riding support for the 3 of us."
Doug Ziewacz is suited to the course, and will provide excellent support and has a strong chance at a good result in San Francisco as well. "My expectations, and that of the team, are to be present in all decisive selections. We had a very poor showing last year and we don't intend to duplicate that performance. I think the course is challenging, but not entirely overwhelming. Riders who are prepared with suitable strength and power will do well. I think we have great chances with Charles Dionne, John Lieswyn, Oscar Pineda, and myself. All of us are more suited towards longer types of road races." 7-Up's newly crowned USPRO Criterium Champion, Kevin Monahan, had a vote of confidence for his teammate, and says of Ziewacz, "He's going. He's going really good right now." Still, says Ziewacz, The San Francisco GP is "a very difficult race coming at a very difficult time, as it is the end of the season."
What will 7-Up's flat landers be doing? Kevin Monahan says the San Francisco GP isn't "really a great course for me." He'll be doing yeoman's work. "I'm just going to try and hang on as long as I can, and take care of those guys, make sure they have food and water, and get 'em to the bottom of the different hills. John tends to worry sometime in races where we're not represented," Monahan adds, "my job will be to help John not worry for as long as possible. Help those guys relax." The new USPRO Crit Champ is looking forward to the race and the trip. "I really like working for the team. Even when the course suits my talents, I'm not always the guy, but I really like the teamwork and get a lot of satisfaction out of it."
Monahan's victory in Downer's Grove came after years of trying for a breakthrough ride: "I've been around for 15 years, and have been on the verge of a big result, and not quite capitalized on it. Now, I've capitalized on it on the biggest day of my specialty." Has it changed his season? "A lot of people are really happy for me," he says. "That's the best thing. The respect from your peers."
Looking back over the past season, Monahan says it's been marked by a lot of consistency. "We are always contenders. We tend to get left out of the press a lot, which is odd, and we tend to be discounted by the other teams, which is also odd; but I think that all works out to our advantage." Doug Ziewacz looks back over the 2002 season and echoes the sense that this has been a strong year for the team. "The best part of this year for him has been "being a part of a successful cohesive team that has established itself is one of the premier professional programs in the United States." He says. "Perhaps Kevin claiming the U.S. Pro Criterium Championship title in Downer's Grove has authenticated the hard work and dedication the entire team has shown this season and for season's past. A big feather in the hat for everyone involved with 7up-Nutra Fig Professional Cycling." John Lieswyn feels like it's been a "very respectable year," Especially considering the fact that "co-captain Clark Sheehan come down with thyroid problems was a big strike against us from the get-go, but thanks to our new Kiwi contingent and solid performances all year from Charles, we represented the sponsors and ourselves well."
With the always strong and tenacious John Lieswyn motivated and gunning for the win, and strong support from a cohesive team, 7-Up are certain to be in the mix on Sunday... especially if the field makes the mistake of underestimating them!
7-Up for the San Francisco Grand Prix
SFGP Live Audio All Weekend - starting Friday morning with interviews.
Live coverage of the SFGP begins at 8am Pacific Daylight Time on Sunday 14th
September! Listen Now!
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