Fred Rodriguez knows how hard the journey to the top echelon of professional cycling is - and he wants to make sure the young riders following his generation of successful American racers have at least as much support, if not more, in doing so. That is why he is backing a new developmental program emerging in his home region of Northern California. Cyclingnews' North American Editor Mark Zalewski checks in with Fast Freddie to get the lowdown on his plans for junior riders.
Together with the support of Charlie Moore of McGuire Realty, and Laura Charameda of the local junior project Team Swift, a new developmental outlet for junior racers is set to emerge; the goal is to give young American riders the opportunity to make the transition from amateur to professional racer. "Back when I was an amateur we had a lot of feeder developmental programs for the national team, where they allowed us time to work with the national program and support us in our area," says Rodriguez. "For me it was Paul Mitchell/Spago. They basically supported me while I was home and allowed me to keep racing, and further develop myself with the national team. The pprogramriority for them was development."
Except for a very few programs in the U.S., like the largely successful TIAA/CREF scheme, directed by a fellow product of Rodriguez's generation Jonathan Vaughters, there is a lack of infrastructure to support riders when they are at the crucial stages before embarking on a career of racing. The times have simply changed, and Fast Freddie wants to bring the support structure back. "There were a lot of programs at the time - amateur programs is what they were called then, and there were [separate] pro teams. Now that everything has basically gone pro there has been a lack of focusing on just development, because it falls into the category of supporting your sponsors. Now a lot of the programs are about having a pro team and there are mixed signs for the developing riders. So what we want to do is have a direct path with what I feel, being one of the guys who made it to the division 1 racing of cycling, and what I feel it takes to get there - the right path."
Click here for the full interview.