Coming of a revelatory spring season, Fast Freddy Rodriguez looked relaxed and ready to defend his title at the race hotel in Philadelphia today.
What characterizes your riding style, and how will that come into play tomorrow in the USPRO Championship?
I'm more of a finesse rider, as compared to someone like Johan Museeuw who goes on pure force. I've got more finesse than those riders who are used to riding races like Flanders and Roubaix.
If you look at Johan, he is just pure power, just jumping on the pedals; whereas I am more pure efficiency, and can create more power with agility. He can't do what I can, and I can't do what he can, but we can both have the same outcome. For me, tomorrow, I'll time myself over the 6 hours and that will put me over the guys who are all power, so at that point, after 5 hours of racing, even though I'm not the most powerful guy, I'll still have more left in the end.
What is your preparation and training like for USPRO?
I've come right off the classic season straight into Philadelphia, but I always need a break after I've been racing and training so much, and am coming right off the classics. I usually take a week off, and then rebuild slowly. I have to think 'Ok, I can't rebuild too slowly, or I won't be ready for Philly; but I can't build too fast either, because then I'll suffer in the summer.' So, what I do is I just work on base long miles. I basically put in two 30 hour weeks, with one week before it to build up, and then taper down a little, and do a week with some fast races in it here at Trenton and Lancaster. By then, I'm usually pretty set for Sunday.
Sunday, for me, it's all about endurance, of course I have to be strong at the end, but if my endurance isn't up there, I won't be there at the end.
You told me that you've always been an over-achiever. How does that figure into your riding?
Yeah, I think setting high goals is the only way to keep yourself achieving what you want to in the sport, and keep taking it to the next level. You have to put yourself on the line. A lot of times people don't really put themselves on the line, and that's what it takes. It's a win/lose situation, and you have to really be able to let your guard down and give it everything, and I can say that even myself, I don't always do that.
When you say you have to let your guard down, what do you mean by that?
You have to put yourself out there, and be willing to lose everything. It's about putting yourself on the line in that moment, in all the aspects that it takes to win. In some situations, I've not been willing to let my guard down. I haven't been willing to lose that much, and that's when I'm not capable of winning. Those times when I can really put myself on the line, that's when I have my most successful moments.
Tomorrow is a big day for you, there's a lot at stake...
I'm going into it, the same way I've gone into it every year I've tried to win this race. I have a really good chance of winning, but I've always come into here with the worst odds. I don't have a full team and I don't have any other Americans on my team, so I don't have any other cards to play. The odds are against me. The odds have been against me every time I've done this race, except for the year I was on Saturn, and I came in second.
The odds were against me in 1999, the year Marti [Jemison] won. He went off in the right break, I covered the guy I thought I had to cover, and it was over. I had to make the sacrifice, I couldn't chase Marti because I thought 'I have to watch George,' because George really wants to win this race, and I know Postal is putting all their marbles on George, so I played my card, and I lost.
If George is willing to lose this race, then I'm willing to lose the race... and George knows that.
George is your good friend, what's it like to race against him as your strongest rival?
He is. He's probably one of my best friends, but we've been racing against each other for so long. If he can't win the race, I can't win the race, and he knows it.
We're going out there mano a mano. The moment he loses the race, I'll lose the race too.
So you think your and George's chances are really tied together in that way?
Why is that?
Because we're the two strongest riders in the race, and he has the strongest team, so I have to play off that. I only have one card to play, and that's my card. So far it's paid off, but Postal wants to win badly here, too.
It's all about marketing and business here, too. If George takes that jersey to the tour, it means a lot. It means a lot more than to have someone else taking it to the tour. George is a big name, and he needs to have that jersey.
Still, they could turn it around on me and set someone else up on the leaders' list, and then I'll have to go to my second plan, and I still don?t know what that is until the middle of the race.
If George wins?
I'll be bummed because I lost. I'll be bummed like George has been in the past, but I'll just set new goals.
But you'll be happy for George?
I'll be happy for George a week or two later. He's my friend and I'll be happy for him. He's a good rider and he's as capable of winning as I am.
Life seems pretty regimented here in the race hotel? what's it like for you when you come here?
Well, I'm the leader of my team, and this is my race, so I do whatever I want.
This is a relaxed environment, because this is my turf, and I call the shots here. My wife is staying with me in my room, and normally, teams won't allow tha...my team won't allow that. This is the only race when I get that. It's kind of like, 'Fred's on his trip,' and this is the American way. But, yeah, usually it is pretty regimented.
Do you look forward to coming here for this week of racing?
Yeah. It's a race I've always done well at, even since my amateur years, when I won Lancaster and came in second in Trenton. That sparked stars in my eyes. I wasn't able to do the Championship that year, but I've always felt that this is the week where I had to shine... there's so much exposure, and so much excitement. It's just brings it up to another level.
Even when I was on Saturn, I was a good rider, but this was the only week where I really showed my cards. It's partly just mental - the whole emotion surrounding this race really psyched me up.
I've just always known that this is the moment when I really need to shine.
Stay tuned for more from Fred next week, on his Spring Season, how cycling can look to the future... and Fast Freddy's Turbo Blend Coffee!
The Daily Peloton has all kinds of great coverage, from interviews to race reports and photo galleries from all the action at our USPRO Main Page!