Fred 'Fast Freddie' Rodriguez out-sprinted a select group of rivals on the streets of Chattanooga, Tennessee to win his fourth US Professional Road Race Championship.
After signing with Jelly Belly Cycling two weeks ago Rodriguez was able to survive Lookout Mountain and a late race challenge from Phil Gaimon to win the championship in a thrilling field sprint.
Rodriguez has primarily been racing around his home in Northern California and the US Pro championships was his first national level race of the year since his previous squad, Team Exergy, folded last fall. "It's a little nerve racking that my first race was going to be the US Pro Championships," said Rodriguez. "I've always specialized in one-day races. I know how to read them, how to conserve and be smart, and it played out to where I needed it to play out, a group sprint. Once we get into the last couple of kilometers, everything just kind of clicks and I just know where to go, who to follow, where to turn."
After the opening downtown circuits a group of four riders including Tom Zirbel (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies), Chris Jones (UnitedHealthcare), Tyler Wren (Team Jamis-Hagens Berman), and James Stemper (5-hour Energy p/b Kenda), took an early lead on the hill. The group worked well together for the next three laps and the both Bissell and the European riders made a calculated risk to let the break go.
The break drove their lead up to four minutes at one point, and while Wren racked up King of the Mountain points, the leaders were slowly reeled in by the peloton. By the third lap up Lookout Mountain the lead had been whittled down to 1:30 and by the fourth time up the break held a slim 25-second lead at the base of the climb. The break was quickly gobbled up by a hard-charging group of climbers led by Matthew Busche (RadioShack Leopard). Busche's acceleration blew apart the race and it wasn't until the riders regrouped for the closing circuits that the remaining contenders could size each other up.
Rodriguez opted to sit back and wait for the regroup at the bottom of the hill rather than push himself to stay with the lead group over the hill. Several riders, familiar with Rodriguez's finishing power, worked hard to keep the pace up and try to prevent him from regaining contact.
"We were trying to ride hard to keep the gap to the group behind, but they joined up on the first circuit," said fourth place finisher Ben Jacques-Maynes (Team Jamis-Hagens Berman). "As soon as I saw Freddy there you kind of know it's going to be a sprint and he was going to be the guy to beat."
After a few unsuccessful attacks from the lead group of 19 riders, Phil Gaimon (Bissell) managed to get away and take a run at a solo win.
"I went kind of early," said Gaimon on his effort, which garnered him the Most Courageous Rider Jersey. "I had the hope that they would screw up a little bit and hesitate, and they did, but not enough. I kept my pace up and on the last lap they had a little more gas left."
The final nail in the coffin to Gaimon's solo effort was a big push from Matthew Busche who put in several turns at the front to weld the race together in the final three kilometers. Once Gaimon was caught the race entered the final stretch, which winds through several downtown turns. Sensing the moment was right, Ben Jacques-Maynes made his move with about 700 meters to go but unfortunately Rodriguez found his wheel. Rodriguez sprinted for the win, followed by Brent Bookwalter (BMC) and Kiel Reijnen (UnitedHealthcare.)
"It was a little rough going through the last corner so no one could really pass," said Rodriguez on his final run to the finish. "By the time I caught Jacques-Maynes for the last corner, he had put in his effort in. He did the lead-out and it just worked perfect where I came around him."
As one of a handful of European-based riders without any teammates Bookwalter had no way of knowing if Rodriguez would be a threat, due to Rodriguez's late start. "I think coming into the race Freddie was a wild card. We hadn't seen him this year," said Bookwalter. "I felt like the pace of the climb was good for getting rid of Freddie, at least three of the four times, we went up really hard up the last time, but he showed he's in great form."
It was Reijnen's second third place finish in two years and his disappointment was obvious when he banged his bars in frustration across the finish line. "It's a little bittersweet for me. I came here to win, that was the goal, and the work that my team did was deserving of a win," said Reijnen. "It's difficult not to be able to give that to them. But I'm happy to be on the podium. It was an awesome venue and an awesome race."
Jelly Belly Cycling brought Rodriguez on in order to try and get invited to the remaining North American stage races including Tour of Utah, Tour of Alberta, and Colorado's USA Pro Cycling Challenge. With the ultimate goal of returning to the Amgen Tour of California, Rodriguez's championship victory will go a long way in helping return Jelly Belly to the forefront of the domestic peloton.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Freddie Rodriguez (Jelly Belly Cycling p/b Kenda)||4:06:56|
|2||Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing Team)|
|3||Kiel Reijnen (UnitedHealthcare)|
|4||Benjamin Jacques-Maynes (Jamis Hagens Berman)|
|5||Gavin Mannion (Bontrager Cycling Team)|
|6||Caleb Fairly (Garmin-Sharp)|
|7||Edward (Ted) King (Cannondale Pro Cycling)|
|8||Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp)|
|9||Matthew Busche (RadioShack Leopard)|
|10||Christopher Baldwin (Bissell Cycling)|
|11||Thomas Zirbel (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies)|
|12||Nathan Brown (Bontrager Cycling Team)|
|13||Carter Jones (Bissell Cycling)|
|14||Christopher Butler (Champion System Pro Cycling Team)||0:00:09|
|15||Lucas Euser (UnitedHealthcare)||0:00:12|
|16||James Driscoll (Jamis Hagens Berman)||0:00:16|
|17||Phillip Gaimon (Bissell Cycling)||0:00:33|
|18||Alexander Hagman (Jelly Belly Cycling p/b Kenda)||0:04:08|
|19||Christopher Jones (UnitedHealthcare)|
|20||Timothy (Timmy) Duggan (Team Saxo-Tinkoff)||0:05:44|
|21||Maxim Jenkins (5-Hour Energy)|
|22||John Murphy (UnitedHealthcare)|
|23||Jesse Anthony (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies)|
|24||Morgan Schmitt (Jelly Belly Cycling p/b Kenda)|
|25||Tyler Wren (Jamis Hagens Berman)|
|26||Jacob Rathe (Garmin-Sharp)|
|27||K Frank Pipp (Bissell Cycling)||0:07:12|
|28||Adam Farabaugh (Equipe Garneau - Quebecor)|
|29||Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp)|
|30||Daniel Summerhill (UnitedHealthcare)|
|31||Chad Haga (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies)|
|32||David Williams (5-Hour Energy)|
|33||Scott Zwizanski (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies)|
|34||Chad Beyer (Champion System Pro Cycling Team)|
|35||Alexander Candelario (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies)|
|36||James Stemper (5-Hour Energy)|
|37||Jeff Louder (UnitedHealthcare)|
|38||Ian Burnett (Jelly Belly Cycling p/b Kenda)||0:39:00|
|39||Taylor Shelden (5-Hour Energy)|
|40||Oscar Clark (Hincapie Sportswear Development Team)||0:54:00|
|41||Jonathan McCarty (Bissell Cycling)|
|42||Tanner Putt (Bontrager Cycling Team)|
|DNS||Alder Martz (Hincapie Sportswear Development Team)|
|DNS||Robin Carpenter (Hincapie Sportswear Development Team)|
|DNS||Emerson Oronte (Jelly Belly Cycling p/b Kenda)|
|DNS||Robert Sweeting (5-Hour Energy)|
|DNS||Edison Turner (Hincapie Sportswear Development Team)|
|DNF||Jason McCartney (Bissell Cycling)|
|DNF||Andrew Baker (Hincapie Sportswear Development Team)|
|DNF||Gregg Brandt (5-Hour Energy)|
|DNF||Mac Brennan (Bissell Cycling)|
|DNF||Thomas Brown (Team SmartStop p/b Mountain Khakis)|
|DNF||Robert Bush (La Pomme Marseille)|
|DNF||G Lawson Craddock (Bontrager Cycling Team)|
|DNF||Michael Creed (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies)|
|DNF||Andrew Dahlheim (Bissell Cycling)|
|DNF||Ryan Eastman (Bontrager Cycling Team)|
|DNF||Nathaniel English (5-Hour Energy)|
|DNF||Michael Friedman (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies)|
|DNF||Kenneth Hanson (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies)|
|DNF||Adrian Hegyvary (UnitedHealthcare)|
|DNF||Charles Huff (Jelly Belly Cycling p/b Kenda)|
|DNF||Jacob Keough (UnitedHealthcare)|
|DNF||Luke Keough (UnitedHealthcare)|
|DNF||Julian Kyer (Bissell Cycling)|
|DNF||Travis Livermon (Team SmartStop p/b Mountain Khakis)|
|DNF||Tyler Magner (Hincapie Sportswear Development Team)|
|DNF||Sean Mazich (Jelly Belly Cycling p/b Kenda)|
|DNF||Carson Miller (Jamis Hagens Berman)|
|DNF||Shawn Milne (5-Hour Energy)|
|DNF||Christopher Monteleone (Team SmartStop p/b Mountain Khakis)|
|DNF||Philip Mooney (Jamis Hagens Berman)|
|DNF||Connor OLeary (Bontrager Cycling Team)|
|DNF||Christian Parrett (5-Hour Energy)|
|DNF||Chase Pinkham (Jamis Hagens Berman)|
|DNF||Jeremy Powers (Jelly Belly Cycling p/b Kenda)|
|DNF||Joseph Rosskopf (Hincapie Sportswear Development Team)|
|DNF||Michael Sherer (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies)|
|DNF||Thomas Soladay (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies)|
|DNF||Robert Squire (Ceramica Flaminia - Fondriest)|
|DNF||Frank Travieso (Team SmartStop p/b Mountain Khakis)|
|DNF||Christopher Uberti (Team SmartStop p/b Mountain Khakis)|
|DNF||Gabriel Varela (Jamis Hagens Berman)|
|DNF||Bradley White (UnitedHealthcare)|
|DNF||Curtis Winsor (Team SmartStop p/b Mountain Khakis)|
|DNF||Benjamin Wolfe (Jelly Belly Cycling p/b Kenda)|
|DNF||Eric Young (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies)|
|DNF||Benjamin Zawacki (Hincapie Sportswear Development Team)|