By Shane Stokes in Ponferrada
Following Robbie McEwen's elimination on stage 5, Fred Rodriguez is now Davitamon-Lotto's fast man in the sprint. He's normally the lead-out for the Australian, but he's hoping to land a stage win before the end of the Vuelta.
"It was actually our intention from the start that I would be the sprinter later on in the race," he told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 7 in Léon. "Robbie was only going to be here for the first week. We gave it our best shot but came out every day a little bit short due to tactical errors. Robbie was feeling okay, I was doing some good leadouts but it doesn't always work out how you want it.
"His form was in top shape for the Tour. Here it was probably a little bit less but Robbie is still the best guy in the world. I think he had a good chance of winning the first stage we sprinted for, but we miscalculated it by about 50 metres. If I had left him 50 metres later he probably would have had it. Little things like that make such a big difference in the sprint. Of course, if he had the legs he had at the Tour, I think he probably would have won even with those little mistakes. But it has been three Grand Tours for him this year, it is a lot.
"Anyway, now it is my turn to give it a shot. I am going to go out there and see what I can do. I have good legs, I have had good performances here in the past, taking second behind Petacchi. I want to better that, get a stage win. There are plenty of stages ahead to do that."
Rodriguez has won three US road race titles and will miss the race due to his participation in the Vuelta. He says that he would like to have been able to ride, but also that the race will be very unpredictable this year.
"Missing the race in place of the Vuelta is a bit of a bittersweet feeling," he said. "Especially with the form I have going right now, I think I would have a good chance. That said, things have changed this year, it is a little bit different. It is not what I would have preferred for a road race, because it is going to be out of control. It is going to be a little like the last Olympic trials, a free for all. George [Hincapie] wants to do well there with it being in Greenville but he is going to have a hard time controlling the field."
Following the end of the Vuelta, Fast Freddie will head to Austria to ride the world road race championships. He'll most likely fulfil a team role there, although if the course is easier than people are saying, he will try for a result.
"I am going to do the worlds in support of Chris Horner. He is the main guy, I think the course is a little bit hard for me. Okay, with Boonen and Freire going, if they are there at the end then there is a good chance I might be there, but I think the course is a little bit too tough. In that case, I will be supporting Chris."