By Gregor Brown in Marseille
Predictor-Lotto's Americans Fred Rodriguez and Chris Horner may be different types of riders but they have one goal in common, which is to help Cadel Evans win the 94th Tour de France. The Aussie currently sits in fourth at 2'41" behind Maillot Jaune Michael Rasmussen.
Rodriguez is the team's sprinter after Robbie McEwen missed the time cut on the climb to Tignes and while he will be leading the charge in Thursday's stage to Montpellier, he will dedicate much of the rest of his Tour to helping Evans in the early phases of the three Pyrenean stages.
He confirmed he will suffer in the mountains but wants to try his hand in the sprints when the chances arise. "The Pyrénées will be tough on me and I am mostly hoping for one of these transition stages to be a field sprint. As long as I can be there; there will be riders like Boonen and Hushovd, and there is a good chance I can also get in there."
With temperatures soaring upwards to 37 degrees, many riders were suffering, but not this Colombian-born Californian. "I enjoy this heat," stated 33 year-old Rodriguez to Cyclingnews. "A lot of guys are going to be trying to go into breakaways but that is not our objective, our objective is to try to win when the stakes are high, when it is in a field sprint or when it is in the mountains with Cadel. He is our main guy for any kind of mountain stage and I am the main guy for any sprint stages."
Horner is also enjoying the warm weather and biding his time for the mountains. "I really prefer this over the cold; it is warm, it is not too bad at the moment," said the 35 year-old. "However, it is not something where you just want to be sitting in the sun either."
After the 54-kilometre Albi time trial on Saturday, he will be faced with three stiff Pyrénéan stages where his services will be called upon in the finale. "It is my job but, of course, it is everybody's' job on the team too look after Cadel, let's be clear on that," he said of the current 'transitional stages' in southern France. "However, ninety percent of the work will be on everyone else, while my job will be to look after myself so when we get into the mountains I can do a better job for Cadel than I could if I was using up energy right now on work that other guys on the team could be doing."
Rodriguez and his fellow Americans Dave Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde are all without contracts for 2008, but Rodriguez said he's not negotiating as of yet. "Not at this point," said Rodriguez. "Everything is kind of just waiting until the Tour is over so I can start [searching]." HE declined to comment on which teams he would like to work with. "Right now I would rather not comment; I don't like to speculate on where I am going or what's going on. I am pretty happy with where I am now, so, we will wait until after the Tour to start speculating."