US national road race champion Freddie Rodriguez (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) told Cyclingnews today that he surrendered his spot on the USA Cycling team for the world championships to RadioShack Leopard's Matthew Busche.
Rodriguez earned an automatic selection to the US team when he won his fourth national championship road race last June in Chattanooga, but he said Wednesday that the Worlds course in Florence, Italy, does not suit his skills, so he gave up the spot.
"After analyzing the course a little bit more and looking at the roster, I feel that another climber would be better suited for this job," Rodriguez said. "I want to go and represent the US. Especially at 40, it would have been really cool, but at the same time it really doesn't suit the skills that I would bring to the team."
The race would have marked Rodriguez's eighth appearance at the world championships. The 272.5km worlds course features more than 3,000 meters of climbing, as much as in a mountain stage at the Giro d'Italia or the Tour de France. The total distance during the 11 circuits around Florence in the Elite men's race adds up to 58.65km of climbing, or 30 percent of the distance covered on the circuit. It simply doesn't suit Rodriguez's sprinting skills.
"You know when it's not your race," Rodriguez said. "I was going to go because I was 40 and I wanted to help the team and I have a lot of experience. But at the same time there are other riders who can do the job a little bit better than I can.
"I definitely could be there for the first 200km and bring them bottles, but I think the goal – being that we only have seven guys – we need every guy at the finish," Rodriguez continued. "We need guys that can get over those hills more times so that we have numbers to play with the last 50km. That's really what it's going to take. That said, I don't know if my climbing is at that level to be there. A rider like Busche definitely has the legs to do something like that."
Busche will join his RadioShack Leopard teammate and recently crowned Vuelta a Espana champion Chris Horner, Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp), Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp), Taylor Phinney (BMC) and Peter Stetina (Garmin-Sharp) on the US road race team for Worlds.
Despite surrendering his spot this year, Rodriguez, 40, said he hopes to make the worlds championships selection in the future.
"My goal is to hopefully be on a future team with a race that does suit my skills a little more," he said. "I don't know exactly what [Richmond], Virginia [in 2015] is going to be like, but a race like that could be a better suited race for me to be part of the Worlds team."
Rodriguez said that he would love to help Horner in the 2015 championships – when Horner is 45 and Rodriguez is 43.
"Chris has helped me a lot at Worlds in the past," Rodriguez said. "He was my main guy when it was more of a sprinters' race, making sure I got over the climbs and looking out for me in the end. So it would have been nice to be there for him. But it's hard to turn that around. For a sprinter to help a climber is a little different."
For now, Horner will have to compete without his former teammate's help, but Rodriguez still picked the 41-year-old as a possible favorite.
"The way Horner is riding, and he's so smart – if there is any stage racer who knows how to race a one-day race, it's Horner," Rodriguez said. "Having him on the team as a captain is going to be big. It's all about the last 50km of that race and who is still strong at the end, and if Chris has the legs like he did last week, it's going to be hard to match."
Rodriguez also tipped Cannondale's Peter Sagan as a potential candidate for the win. Rodriguez said he spoke with Sagan during the Tour of Alberta to try and get a feel for how hard the Worlds course is.
"I asked him if he liked the course and he said it's a hard course but he's going to try," Rodriguez said. "And if there is any sprinter who is going to make it, it's Sagan. He knows how to buck the odds. If they can't get rid of him in the last 50km, it all depends on how hard those guys go up the climb the last couple of times. If he knows how to float it correctly and save energy, Sagan could still be there."