Fast Freddie on Cycling, Coffee, and Kids
By Courtenay Redis
Fast Freddie in the 2003 Tour de Georgia
“I feel really passionate about generating an awareness of getting kids involved in cycling, but...only a couple of us make it, so they need to have something to fall back on,“ Freddie suggests, adding that this “something” beyond the bike should be receiving a solid education.
Toward that end, Rodriguez has gotten involved with an organization that promotes a balance between racing bikes and finishing school. The Northern California High School Mountain Bike Association can now claim Freddie as a star supporter. Reflecting on his choice to pursue the junior racing circuit at the expense of his education, Freddie states, “I wish an organization like them [NorCalMTB] had been around for me to help me make decisions in my life. I don’t regret those decisions, but I do regret them, too.”
Even in Europe, Freddie goes on to say, he sees the same oversight among young racers who choose cycling over schooling where, “in Italy and Spain…probably less than 1% or 1/2% make it, and the other 99%… are in their early 20s with nothing to fall back on.”
Listen kids: even if you have the talent of a 3-time USPro Road Cycling Champion like Freddie Rodriguez, there’s value in planning for life after cycle sport. Perhaps this is one reason why Freddie’s friend George Hincapie has fashioned his own clothing line. If you’re Freddie Rodriguez, though, it’s all about speed, so his market share can be found in your morning cup. Coffee anyone?
Not unlike The Man in Yellow, Freddie has a fondness for a very legal stimulant: a strong brew. Unlike Armstrong, who popularized another man’s coffee (Peet’s, which began in Berkeley, California), Freddie has come up with his own sell: the Fast Freddie Turbo Charge.
If you caught the “Lance Chronicles,” aired during OLN’s Tour coverage, you’ll probably remember the scene in which the Giro rep. arrives in Europe with the revolutionary new time trial helmet. Before Lance even considers trying it out, he first wants his bag of Peet’s Major Dickinson Blend coffee. When handed to him, he longingly holds the bag of beans to his nose and swoons as though a man reunited with the scent of his long lost lover’s perfume. It is clear that coffee plays a major role in the professional cyclist’s life.
According to Freddie, “…we all need those little things that make life better when we’re out there riding every day. We like a nice little booster, so coffee and the bike go hand in hand!”
For a man buzzed from his favorite cup of Joe and a bonus for winning the overall US Pro Cycling Tour (PCT) Championship series in September, it was a nice change of pace to find Fast Freddie during his more relaxed times. We first caught up with him while he was recuperating at home in Emeryville, California (an old injury was reactivated when Freddie crashed on the San Francisco course). We found him later via phone in Girona, Spain while he indulged in his post training ride massage, just a week before heading to World’s.
Becoming the US Pro Road Cycling Champion by his win in Philadelphia earlier in the year helped to offset his disappointment in not making the US Olympic Team. This win allowed him to refocus on riding well in the final installment of the PCT series in San Francisco in September and holding form through to the World Cup in Italy in October.
Reflecting on the outcome of the race in San Francisco, where Rodriguez came in second behind Canadian Charles Dionne (WEBCOR), Freddie laughed in spite of himself when he remembered the crash, the team support car arriving with the wrong bike, and of pedaling with only one leg as the re-injured one dragged along for the ride. “Considering how much I had to overcome, I still pulled it off to come in second. The odds were against me…I even surprised myself with what I did there.” His second place at the San Francisco race still earned him the overall Pro Cycling Tour Championship.
Next goal: World’s.
Having ridden in Verona in 1999, Fred describes a challenging course and a peloton wanting to conserve energy for the end of the race. “With it being so hard, the leaders will take it easy so that they can win in the end…which means I’ll have more of a chance to win on the line. Breaks may go earlier in the race, but they will get caught and…the best strategy is to save your energy all day. Stay with the big boys who play it safe and in the last half hour of the event they get their moment.”
Fast Freddie seized such a moment earlier in the season. On a day he will never forget, Freddie came from behind and won in a field sprint finish against arch rival Alessandro Pettachi (FASSA BORTOLO) on Stage 9 of this year’s Giro d’Italia. Commenting on what, to this date, is his greatest career highlight, Freddie indicates that he is at the top of his game.
“I wanted to get at least one chance to go head to head with Pettachi… I knew I could give him a run for his money if I got the right situation. I wanted to prove that I am one of the fastest guys in the world and winning the stage proved that. Beating Pettachi put me at the same level as him. They say that that was the only time he’s been beaten straight out. The problem is my team: we don’t have the horsepower that his team has.”
That little issue will all be remedied, at least on paper, come January when Rodriguez joins forces once again with Director Marc Sergeant of the LOTTO team (OMEGAPHARMA-LOTTO in 2005). The move from AQUA e SAPONE makes sense on a number of levels, not the least of which is that he will have access to the major races of the new Pro Tour. Freddie will be given the chance to go head-to-head with the best sprinters on the most important terrain and with the support of a great team to help lead him to the win.
One of the most compelling draws to LOTTO is the Director, Marc Sergeant. Fred rode for Sergeant back in their MAPEI days, and like Axel Merx who recently signed a contract with Sergeant and LOTTO, Freddie is looking forward to working with his mentor again.
“… Marc is one of the smartest directors I have come across while working in this industry. Not only was he a very talented athlete in his time, but he has been able to channel that energy into being a great role model and leader.” Freddie describes Sergeant as a man able to bring the best out of his riders and help preserve morale during the rigors of the season. “In the world of cycling it sometimes can be a hard world, where only the best survive. Working with Marc has allowed me to feel part of a winning team that wins and loses together.”
Freddie is flying, coffee-induced and revved up in anticipation of a great 2005 season return to both the classics, and to his mentor, Marc Sergeant. While Rodriguez will most likely trade places in races like the Tour de France, playing a supportive role to future teammate and fellow sprinter Australian Robbie McEwen, Freddie is psyched to be the first to the line in the classics. He hopes to continue his great form of 2004 while taking it to another level with LOTTO. What more could a guy ask for? How about another cup of coffee?
This Article Published October 14, 2004 For more information contact: