By Mark Zalewski in Lancaster
It seems that for Fred Rodriguez (Davitamon-Lotto), racing on U.S. soil is a treacherous task - more so for his equipment than for the current USPRO champion. Last year in Trenton, Rodriguez spent multiple laps of the race hanging on to the team car adjusting his seat. At the New York City Championships in 2004, his front brake lever broke making it extremely difficult to brake around the tight Manhattan course.
Bad luck struck again on Tuesday in Lancaster. First was the fact that the majority of his team was slowed down by travel problems from Belgium, including his flying Aussie lead-out man Henk Vogels. Thirty-five hours in the air and sitting in airports meant that his teammates would have been little use to him. "We had some difficulties getting the team here from Europe - something like a thirty-five hour trip, so we decided to rest [most today] so they could be as strong as they can for Sunday," said Rodriguez. "We were all in the hurt box - we wouldn't have been any help for him," said Vogels. "It would have been good to be there for him to kick off the week with a win, but [Thursday] is another day."
But that was not all Murphy's Law had in store for Rodriguez. This time the problem came in the form of a pedal malfunction. In the middle of the race, the left pedal broke and Fast Freddy needed to do some fast thinking. Complicating matters was the fact that he did not have a team car in the race, and only a couple of teammates.
"I needed a bike change and we didn't have a car, so I had to grab a pedal from the neutral support, put it in my back pocket and go to the hill where my [other] bike was sitting - drop my bike off with the mechanic and say, 'Switch the pedal!' Then get back in."
Simple, right? Not so fast, said Freddy. "On my way back trying to get my bike that was changed I was trying to get to the climb first so I could have time, and somebody wasn't paying attention hit me from the back and tore-off my derailleur. So I was coasting into the climb, got stuck half way up and had to run up the hill. Finally the mechanic came and pushed me up a little so I was off the back. I got my bike and had to sprint all the way back into the cars. And that's when the attacks started going - my teammates killing themselves trying to get me back. But other than that it was typical." (laughs)
After all this, Rodriguez still managed to make the decisive break and hold a strong position into the final sprint, just missing the win by a few centimetres. Look for Fast Freddy to defend his title on Thursday in Trenton, this time with an entire team, including a strong Henk Vogels.