Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Early Birds #3- Racing with Fast Freddie

Making it to the ProTour level in cycling is a great achievement and certainly the dream of anyone who has every pinned on a number with intent to win. Now being at such level, competing in 10 grand tours, winning stages in the Giro D'Italia and being runner up to non other then Mario Cipollini is legendary. When I learned that Freddie Rodriguez was to join our team for the 2011 season, I was ecstatic. Already having former USPS ride Dylan Casey mentoring us with all his knowledge was incredible, but adding on Fast Freddie would be just a dream.

The third Early Bird training race was the first time I was to race in the same colors as Fast Freddie. As we lined up, I had no intention of repeating last weeks win in three man break. I knew it would be nice, but I was also realistic in thinking the pack was not going to let another breakaway fly with me in it. After an unfortunate crash about twenty minutes into the race, the field was neutralized while the rider was cared for. This was when Freddie, James Laberge and I came to the conclusion I would be the one to sprint for the victory. With three laps remaining, I was just trying to stay among the top twenty spots in the pack. On the penultimate lap, Larry Nolan put in a great pull on the start/finish straight which helped string out the field. After turn one with less then a lap to go, Dylan Casey took the lead with Freddie on his wheel, and I on his. I was thinking to myself, "how are two guys going to last a combined kilometer and a half?" Turns out being in the ProTour teaches you a few tricks. I knew all I had to achieve was to stay on Freddie's wheel, and he would bring me into perfect position for the win. As we came around turn two, with about 1k to go, the pack began swarming around me. That is when Freddie yelled "jump" and Dylan gave one last ditch effort to whip up the pace, which in tern brought Freddie and I into perfect position. (Freddie behind a Cliff rider going all out and me on Freddie's wheel). The mixture of excitement that came over me when reality set in that I was truly being led out by one of the formerly fastest sprinters in the world was overwhelming. I knew I had to stay on Freddie's wheel or die trying. As we approached turn three, Freddie swung around the Cliff rider and dove into the turn. From there, I knew it would just be up to me to stay on Freddie's wheel while he launched his acceleration to the line, and from then all I had to do was come around. With a 52x14, I must say, it was a tough task, but when the thought of me making Freddie, Dylan, and the whole rest of the teams work for nothing, a rush of adrenaline came through, I got out of the saddle, and stomped on the pedals to come around for the victory.

After the race, Freddie and I took a cool down lap. He gave me specifics on how he managed to stay up among the top 5 wheels in the race, and how to keep a great lead out going even when you are short a few riders. It was wonderful insight only someone of that caliber could give. We ended up back at the team tent near the start/finish of the race. There, with the whole team, we had a great debriefing. I received congratulations from teammates, when I should have actually been congratulating my teammates for setting me up so perfectly. I could never do it so well without them, and I look forward to returning the favors!

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