Worcester, Mass.
April 1, 2001

Lieswyn hits the road after a long winter

By Lynne Tolman

  John Lieswyn isn't going to use a snowy Worcester winter as an excuse. The climate did limit the pro racer's off-season road training, and it showed last month at the Redlands Bicycle Classic in California, but Lieswyn says to just give him a few more weeks and he'll be in competitive form.
   Lieswyn, 32, who moved to Worcester from California last year, finished the 2000 season ranked No. 3 among pro men on the national road racing circuit. The top two were Mercury riders Gord Fraser, from Canada, and Henk Vogels, from Australia, so Lieswyn, then with Team Shaklee, was the top-ranked American.
   This year Shaklee is not sponsoring a team, and Lieswyn is co-leader of the 7UP/Colorado Cyclist team with former Saturn rider Clark Sheehan. The two have been racing "the same amount of time, but never on the same team at the same time. We've both been on Coors Light and Saturn, but at different times," said Lieswyn, who was on the U.S. national team in 1991, 1992 and 1995 and holds a national team time trial record.
   Both Lieswyn and Sheehan are strong in long-distance stage races, "but the majority of events for us will be city-center criteriums where we'll be trying to set up someone else for the sprint," Lieswyn said. "It's like in football: The quarterback doesn't do the scoring, it's the receivers."
   Lieswyn's wife, veterinarian Dawn Kingsbury, began a yearlong internship at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine in Grafton last June, and the couple bought a house in Worcester's Greendale section. In the fall, Lieswyn entered some cyclocross races just for fun and found the New England circuit "was really awesome. The SuperCup race in Gloucester -- that's the way bike racing should be, a giant party atmosphere for families."
   Lieswyn used to mountain bike every day when he lived in Asheville, N.C., but considers himself too cautious to be competitive in that sport.
   Cyclocross racing, though not conducted on paved roads, "is not like mountain biking," he said. "It's totally controlled," with racers cycling and carrying their bikes on a closed circuit with known obstacles. "I'd say it's the safest of all the disciplines -- no cars, no trees."
   Lieswyn's best 'cross finish in 2000 was ninth place in the Amherst International Cyclo-cross race Oct. 28.
   Over the winter, he concentrated on home remodeling but biked on the road at least once a week. On relaxed rides in the neighborhood he often had his dog, a Doberman named Closer, trotting alongside on a leash. "He grew up accompanying me on a bike," Lieswyn said.
   In January, Lieswyn did a 40-kilometer race in Brazil, "and all it did was show me how out of shape I was."
   However, he had a blast during the rest of his stay in Brazil viewing Sao Paolo over the handlebars, and that's one of his favorite things about cycling, "getting to see the world from a different perspective than a tour bus or car."
   For winter workouts at home, Lieswyn would spin on a trainer in his basement, tethered by headphones to a stereo playing a dance mix of Eurotrance MP3s, facing a few simple signs he put on the wall to keep his mind on task:

   "My goal is to make up 10 seconds on my last year's performance," Lieswyn said. "If I can do that then I have a bona fide chance of winning."
   By late February, he was itching to ride outside more. "You can only maintain motivation on a stationary bike for so long. Plus, no matter how many intervals I do and what gears I use, it doesn't use the muscles in the same way" as riding on the road, he said.
   His favorite training loop from home is a 43-miler through West Boylston and Sterling, with a climb to Mount Wachusett and the return on back roads west of Route 140. He described the terrain as "Slam! Up, down, up, down, stop sign, go!" and said, "It requires that kind of a road to get my heart rate going ... I try to make my 43 miles like most other riders' 75 miles, by not stopping."
   He said, "I don't subscribe to the big base miles theory of training. I believe in blowing out the cobwebs at least once a week. I believe short, hard miles are better than long, slow miles. Intensity over quantity, for sure."
   The Wachusett area is familiar training ground for another local pro, Frank McCormack (Saturn) of Leicester. Lieswyn did one training ride last September with McCormack and his youngest brother, Shawn McCormack, and another guy. "It was one of the hardest rides I've ever done," Lieswyn said. "I thought maybe Frank was trying to prove something or test me or intimidate me, but in retrospect, that wasn't it."
   This year, "I'm afraid it's going to be hard to match my No. 1 American (ranking). That was season-long consistency," Lieswyn said before the season opener, the six-stage Redlands race, in which he finished safely in the pack.
   He found his legs in the final stage of the three-day Mercury Sea Otter Classic last weekend in Monterey, Calif., helping drive two major breakaways, but was caught with two laps to go and didn't have any juice left to help get a teammate to the front.
   "I'm starting off from behind this year. But I think I can get to full speed from nothing in five weeks," he said.
   Dozens of historic bicycles are on display for three more weeks at the Museum of Our National Heritage in Lexington. "The Bicycle Takes Off: From Boneshaker to Boom," chronicling the development of the most efficient form of human-powered transportation, runs through April 22. Admission is free.
   Boston bike historian and exhibit curator David V. Herlihy shows in his colorfully presented research that bikes did not evolve in a straight line, from kick-propelled hobby horse to pedal-powered high-wheeler to the modern "safety" bike with equal-sized wheels. Rather, bicycle inventions came in fits and starts, sometimes with parallel developments in different countries or even backward steps. Their success depended on marketing, for one, and societal sea changes such as feminism.
   The glorious Victorian-era posters alone are worth a look.
   For details on the show, call (781) 861-6559 or visit or The exhibit will be shown in Springfield next year.

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