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The Bright Lights of Interbike
By Staff
Date: 10/18/2003
The Bright Lights of Interbike

By Casper Casparian

Fred Rodriguez

Fred Rodriguez at the Worlds.
Photo by Scott Schaffrick.
Click for larger image

The least-rested arrival to the expo was surely Fred Rodriguez, who appeared at the Velomax Wheel Systems booth mere hours after his difficult ride in the World Championship road race in Hamilton, Canada. The fast man of Vini Calderola was coy on his plans for next year, assuring us that he’ll make a team announcement in the next week or so, and that it will certainly keep him on the European circuit.

Since the World Championship was only ended the day before, I was interested to hear his take on the race. “I wasn’t going to do the Worlds, it wasn’t initially planned. It’s been a long, hard season for me. But I talked to George [Hincapie] and he said he was willing to do it, and I decided to ride to support him. Getting ready for the Worlds was actually easier than ending my season early. I had a lot of crashes this year and I wanted to focus on the Vuelta. I had good form, but I was still tired at the end of the season.”

“The end of the season was a good save. I put a lot of pressure on myself in the spring and came up disappointed. Then I was disappointed in the summer. It’s really hard to peak a third time during the season, but I buckled down and did it.”

“The World Championship course was so tough, we took it easy. We started out at a moderate pace and then with each successive lap, we ramped it up slightly faster. We just didn’t have it when the race got fast [at the end].”

The 2003 season was particularly difficult for Rodriguez and his off-season will be tailored to address the abuse he took: “I have more mental fatigue than in years past. I had a lot of crashes this year. The most important part of the season for me is the spring classics, but I had bronchitis and then illness, so it made the beginning of the season difficult. Then illness forced me out of the Tour (de France).”

I asked Rodriguez whether he can bear to watch the major races wire-to-wire on TV when he’s not taking part in them. (This question was brought to mind by the fact that the recorded voice of Phil Liggett was running nonstop from the video monitors at the neighboring Canari Sportswear booth).

Fred commented, “When I’m out of the Tour, I don’t watch the coverage every day. I watch a couple of days, the days where it’s important to me to watch the sprints. Fortunately, in the Tour this year there weren’t many sprints after the point that I dropped out. I got a stomach virus, and there’s not much I could do. [Stage 15] was one of the toughest stages in the tour.”

Because he punished his body so much in 2003, I asked whether Rodriguez’s recovery during the winter will deviate from his usual rest routine. He confirmed that “my post-season rest will be different this year. I’ll be working with Eric Heiden and Massimo Testa at their clinic in Sacramento. [Ed.: Heiden, an orthopedist, is the former Olympic speedskating multi-medal winner and former pro cyclist.] Usually when I’ve been injured, I try to tough it out, which can create more instability. I’m hoping to have a good recovery. I cramped out at the Worlds this year, the same as happened in the spring, and we’re going to work on that.”

When I asked him what foods he’s been craving now that the European campaign is over, he mentioned without a moment’s hesitation In-N-Out, the California-based hamburger chain. Now that his season is done, Rodriguez clearly hankers after comfort foods he wouldn’t normally touch: “When I was in the airport flying back from Canada, I got Doritos, M&Ms and all the junk food I could find. After a race it’s good to have a little excess.”

But he’s looking forward most to catching up on his family life: “For the off-season, my number-one plan is to go home and hang out with my wife.”

George Hincapie

George Hincapie at the Worlds.
Photo by Scott Schaffrick.
Click for larger image

Doing his turn at the U.S. Postal Service booth, which saw a never-ending rotation of his teammates, George Hincapie gamely offered to answer a few questions while multitasking: greeting fans, posing for photos, signing autographs. Now that he has a sportswear line bearing his name, Hincapie looks to be even more stylishly dressed than usual.

The Hincapie Sportwear display was not far from the Postal booth, and George was glad with the feedback from the show: “I had a good reception of my line so far at the show. Fortunately, I don’t have to take the meetings myself.”

Hincapie noted that he suffered setbacks from illness in 2003 and had hoped to salvage his season with a strong result in Hamilton. “I had a lot on the line at the Worlds. I dropped out of the Vuelta early and trained hard for three weeks. Then at the last minute, on Saturday afternoon before the race, I got a stomach virus,” effectively killing his hopes for a high finish.

Like many super-achievers, he is probably overly critical of himself: “I’m disappointed with the result, of course. I let myself down, and I let a lot of people down. There was a lot on the line and I was hoping for some redemption for the year and I’m not happy with the way things went.”

Speaking generally about his 2003 campaign, Hincapie sounded similarly dissatisfied. “Overall I was disappointed with the season because in the races that the team pays me to do well in, I wasn’t able to be successful or even take a big part in,” he said. “The team isn’t putting pressure on me [for next year], though – they were happy with the Tour and how we did. It was the best Tour we ever did, and it was very gratifying to be part of it.”

As for his preparation for 2004: “Following the season, I’ll take a good month off. This year has been hard on me. In the spring I was getting rest physically, but I was still sick, so I wasn’t really rested.”

Fred Rodriguez at Interbike. Photo by Casper Casparian


George Hincapie at Interbike.

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