Four-time and reigning US pro road race champion "Fast" Freddie Rodriguez will ride two more years for his current Jelly Belly team. The 40-year-old rider announced his new contract Tuesday during a press conference in Sacramento to reveal the 2014 Amgen Tour of California host cities.
Rodriguez led a community ride from the stage 2 host city of Folsom to the site of the Sacramento press conference to kick off the event. His participation in the official activities could be a positive sign that his California-based Continental team will be invited back to the race next season after missing out on the past two editions of the eight-day 2.HC race.
"I'm excited to come to California," said Rodriguez, who grew up in Los Angeles and currently lives in nearby Berkeley. "Mt. Diablo is one of my training roads. I'm a little torn because I'm not a climber, but I've been able to race on a road I call home. I have a charity called the Fast Freddie Foundation, and we've actually used Mt. Diablo in the Fast Freddie Grand Fondo, so it's great seeing all of that come together and to have Sacramento be the host city to start things off."
While Rodriguez's statements indicated he expects to return to the California race next year, Jelly Belly director Danny Van Haute held his team's cards a little closer to his chest.
"You never know," Van Haute said in response to a Cyclingnews question about his team's chances of getting a California invitation from race technical director Medalist Sports. "We would love to get invited to the race. We missed it last year, but we got invites to Utah, Colorado and Alberta. We're definitely hoping for an invite, but it's difficult sometimes, and then sometimes it's not so difficult. We just have to wait and see. I don't think the announcement is coming out until February or March."
Jelly Belly headquarters are in nearby Fairfield, Van Haute said, "and I'm sure Jelly Belly would be happy to come and see the race."
Rodriguez would be riding in his fifth Tour of California if the team is invited in 2014, but his main goal, he said at the Tuesday press conference, is the 2015 world championships in Richmond, Virginia. Rodriguez earned an automatic berth to the 2013 US Worlds team when he won the US pro road race in June, but he turned over his spot to Matthew Busche, who Rodriguez said was better suited to the 2013 course in Italy.
"It would be so great if I could retire at the world championships here in the US," Rodriguez said. "For professional races I think this would be my seventh world championship, and it would be amazing to finish my career on home turf."
In the meantime, Rodriguez will be expected to provide experience, leadership and results for Van Haute's Jelly Belly team as it competes on the US domestic circuit.
"He has confidence – and I have confidence – in him doing well in major events here in the US," Van Haute said.
The team will announce the rest of the 2014 Jelly Belly roster later this week, Van Haute said, adding that a core group of six returning riders will join five new signings in the iconic jelly bean kits next season.
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