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USPRO Interview Series: John Lieswyn
By Jaime Nichols
Date: 5/29/2002
USPRO Interview Series: John Lieswyn

Riding for the 7 UP Pro Cycling Team, John Lieswyn is one of America's journeymen in the sport. Racing for over 15 years, he has recorded 130 career victories and is a two-time U.S. Nationals World Team member.

Lieswyn has raced internationally as well, and won a mountain stage of the Regio Tour of Europe in 1995 against top European cycling professionals.

The Daily Peloton caught up with John just after The Housatonic Valley Classic to ask him how he and the 7-Up - NutraFig team were leading into USPRO week.

Tell us about the 7-UP Team plans for Philly week!

I don't want to go into too many specifics as they haven't been formulated yet anyway, but I would say that getting on the podium at Trenton, Lancaster and Philly are the main goals.

We have Kevin, Charles and Greg as our main men for Trenton. Kevin has been top ten there, Charles has shown his ability to win against guys like Gord, and Greg is out and out our fastest man, so we'll be gunning for Trenton. Lancaster is a bit more difficult, and for us we're going to need some luck in addition to a great ride from me. I will definitely be the protected rider for that race and I'm hoping to be able to deliver for the team.

At Philly we need to achieve two goals: Publicity for the sponsors (KOM, breakaway representation, primes) and we need to step it up and try to get on the podium. If we are top three at the end of 156 miles naturally we'll be going for the US jersey as well. To do this I'm going to have to figure out how to beat two former US amateur teammates, George and Fred. That's a tall order but since we are usually overlooked as a team there's a bit of an advantage in being the underdog.

For me, winning the jersey at Philly would crown my career and it has been a ten year goal of mine. Today, it's pretty hard to be competitive in the final miles of Philly without being based in Europe. If I were able to repeat my Y2K performance at Philly there would definitely be a few things I'd do differently, a few tactics I would give a try.

Tactics that you won't want to share with us all right now, I'd imagine; but can you tell us more generally what you'd do differently? What happened in that race that you felt could have been done better?

I certainly wouldn't write someone like Vogels off even if he'd been brought back umpteen times in a row. We all figured he'd be the last guy with something left. Just in case Fred or George is reading, I can't go into it in more detail, but it's really quite simple. It's what kind of temporary alliance I have to make, given that I am in contention on the small laps at the end.

Where do you expect the 7-Up Team to do the most damage in Philly week? Will you be the team leader?

I am co-leader of the team with Clark Sheehan. He and I have over fifteen years of domestic and European racing experience each. However, we are both of the stage racer/strongman variety, and our team is stacked with sprinting talent. It is a personal challenge for me to develop my lead-out ability to the point where we can run a lead-out superior to that of Mercury, Prime Alliance and Navigators. When we can do that, then Charles, Greg, Kevin and Oscar will begin accruing the wins that they deserve.

How tough is that week of racing with three hard races so close together? To your mind, is it possible to ride well in all of them?

I think if you ride well in one you have the gas to ride well at all three, keeping in mind that certain riders will be reserved for the sprint at Trenton and then will be workers for Philly.

You've been racing bikes a long time! How did you get into it, and what has kept you at it for so long?

The short story is that I wasn't very good at other athletic endeavors so when I won the first few races I competed in back in 1986 I felt like I'd found my calling, so to speak. A drunk who stepped out in front of my teammate Chris Huber and I in the 1994 Athens Twilight Criterium put a big damper on my career, as it took quite a while to fully recover from the compressed vertebrae I sustained.

I keep at it because I'm passionate about the benefits of pedestrian, bicycle and mass transit. Cycling is good for me, you and the rest of America. There should be alternatives to solely car based sprawl.

Other equally important reasons are: I'm seeking a national championship. I've been chasing an individual national title my whole career and I'll have the TT, Criterium and US Pro Road Race to try for it in 2002. I'm still achieving new levels in the domestic scene. I'm still good at it, and enjoy the people and places.

Jamie Paolinetti (Schroeder Iron) told me that he would put you on a short list of about 5 guys in the US who are instrumental in deciding the outcome of every race they're in... Why do you think he would say that?

That's nice of him to say.

I think that Team 7UP/NutraFig is a powerful team with a bunch of hungry riders, so as a group we have to be included in the action of every domestic race. If we miss the move, we've shown that we have the power to bring it back. In this way, my whole team really is the instrumental factor, not just me. Jamie may also be referring to my style, which tends to be a little less patient than say, Scott Moninger. I end up being in a lot of breakaways in any given race.

What do you think makes someone a good bike racer, besides raw physical aptitude?

They have to have been bitten by the cycling "bug". A good rider has learned to suffer, and doesn't quit races unless they're injured or sick, or it's pointless to continue alone on the course.

Meaning they have to want to do it badly enough to suffer?

The "bug" can be a love of suffering, or an addiction to the technical aspects of cycling; or just an appreciation for the teamwork and its tactical characteristics.

Do you consider yourself to be a competitive person?

Very much so. Although I have been able to tame it somewhat when I'm driving a car, or else I'd have long since lost my license!

Career Highlights:

2001 Tour of Willamette - First Place, Stage Three
2001 Tour de 'Toona - King of the Mountain Jersey Winner
2001 Chris Thater Memorial Criterium - First Place
2001 Fitchburg Stage Race - First Place, Road Race
2000 Overall U.S. Pro Cycling Tour - Third Place
2000 U.S. National Time Trial Championship - Second Place
2000 First Union Classic - Fourth Place
1999 Chris Thater Memorial Criterium - First Place
1999 Herald Sun Tour & Commonwealth Bank Classic - Stage Win

Read more about John and his team at the Team 7-Up - Nutrafig Website!

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