Jelly Belly p/b Kenda team director Danny Van Haute has had successful tenure in the American peloton but in the last two years his squad had failed to secure an invitation to the Amgen Tour of California.
He decided to turn to Fred "Fast Freddie" Rodriguez to help raise the profile of the team and is suddenly back in the spotlight, with the stars and stripes now set to mix with the bright colors of the Jelly Belly jersey for at least the rest of the season. Van Haute made a gamble by signing the veteran sprinter but it paid off faster than he expected.
"We signed him two weeks ago," said Van Haute after Fast Freddie's win. "We've been talking since Redlands, maybe a little bit before that. It's a timely-timed thing and he signed for the year."
Rodriguez knew he was likely to sign with the UCI Continental team towards the end of April and started tailoring his training plan accordingly.
"I had good form because I've been helping out some young riders and racing a couple local races," Rodriguez said about his preparation to race professionally again.
"Once it was solid I was going to be on the team I just worked on upping my base. I knew I didn't have time to focus on intensity, and as an endurance athlete you need a good base."
Back from his hiatus
Rodriguez was brought onto the burgeoning Team Exergy in 2011 to help raise their profile and make them competitive at larger events like the Tour of California. The team's bet on Rodriguez was rewarded with invites to the major US tours and a top-three stage finish at Tour of California in 2012. However, Exergy's tumultuous exit from cycling was difficult for many including Rodriguez.
"It was disappointing," he said. "The sport has had a hard time the last couple of years and I always look at the positive side, my foundation, my apparel company, my Grand Fondo. I concentrate on those things."
While on hiatus Rodriguez focused on growing this apparel company and setting up the Fast Freddie Gran Fondo which will be run August 17-18 in support of the Fast Freddie Foundation. Rodriguez pointed to programs like his foundations work with the Positive Coaching Alliance as ways to help improve athlete’s moral and ethical approach to sports and life.
Rodriguez surprised many on Monday with his ability to climb with the leaders over Lookout Mountain. For Rodriguez, who started out his career as a sprinter that could climb, it's been a matter of rediscovering what made him successful in the first place.
"Racing in Europe I thought 'I need to gain a lot of weight to be a faster sprinter.' That didn't work for me so now I'm coming back to by old roots and concentrating on my diet, enjoying the sport, and trying to teach other young riders what I learned."