American up against a handful of fast men
Fred Rodriguez (Team Exergy) has two main objectives at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado: to win one of the final three stages and the Smashburger Sprint jersey before the seven-day event concludes in Denver on Sunday.
"For me, I have always sprinted better in these types of races where there are big lead-outs that are fast for a long time. That suits me more than the typical US criterium style racing," Rodriguez told Cyclingnews. "I'm excited to sprint, I'm feeling good and so I am going to go out there and get the legs rolling again."
"I think the first goal is that if the race comes down to a sprint that I am there to play a part in it," he said. "We wanted to set up myself and Carlos Alzate to try and get sprint points earlier on in the stage race so that if we did win a stage, we would have a chance to get into the sprinter's jersey."
Rodriquez won the first intermediate sprint for points during the queen stage 2 race from Gunnison to Aspen. He currently has six points and has a fair size gap to close to the sprint jersey leader, and overall race leader, Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) who has 17 points.
"I think I have about six points, and if I won a stage, I might be able to either move into the [sprint] leader's jersey or be close in the standings," Rodriguez said. "At this point, it is more critical to pick up bigger points at the finish line than to go for intermediate sprints. I think that is the only way anyone is going to win that jersey now."
There were two accomplished sprinters in the running for sprint points prior to the start of stage 4. Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale), who recently placed second in a stage at Tour of Utah from a bunch sprint, has eight points. Robert Forster (UnitedHealthcare) sprinted for intermediate points during the stage one event from Salida to Mt Crested Butte has five points.
Other strong sprinters in attendance who will be eyeing a stage win are odds-on favourite Kenny van Hummel (Skil-Shimano), Viviani's teammate Daniel Oss and Hayden Roulston (HTC-Highroad)
"Forster is here and [Juraj] Sagan is sprinting really well for a young guy," Rodriguez said. "I think Liquigas-Cannondale has two really good guys. There are always going to be some good sprinters in the mix and others are going to rise to the occasion. There are always going to be some good lead-outs. I haven't sprinted against these guys before, they are all younger guys."
"Even though there are a lot of climbers here, I think we are still going to see lead-outs from teams like UnitedHealthcare, Liquigas-Cannondale and our team will put something together for a lead-out," he said. "I think there might not be as many teams leading out but there will still be 10 or 15 guys out there putting together fast lead-outs."
Team Exergy has two cards to play in the sprints with youngster Carlos Alzate. "I look at Carlos on our team as one of the new up and coming sprinters in the world," Rodriguez said. "He has proven that he can sprint in the US and that he has a big engine. As we develop the team he is one of those guys that I am going to keep an eye on to be a top stage race sprinter.
Rodriguez was born in Bogotá, Colombia, and now resides with his family in Berkeley, California. He is a notable sprinter having raced for international teams Mapei, Domo-Farm Frites, Acqua e Sapone and Predictor-Lotto throughout his career. He joined Team Exergy in June prior to the TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championships.