Captain America Down Under
By Karen Forman in Adelaide
They are saying, around the traps, that American Fred Rodriguez will be one to beat when the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under gets underway today. Certainly, the 28 year old Domo Farm Frites member is going into the event in good form and with the right attitude.
"My preparation has been good leading to the race," he told a pre-event press conference in Adelaide yesterday. "This is the first test. "
Rodriguez suggested that he might have it easier than the likes of defending champion Stuart O'Grady and that the event should suit him well. "There is always going to be a focus on the main riders, especially the winner of the year before, which does take the pressure off the other guys," he said. "I'm a fairly fast guy at the end. If it is not too hard at the beginning, I still have a chance at the end.
"I'm not too scared of the course. I know the heat can play a big factor but it plays in my benefit."
But that's not to say he doesn't expect the competition to be stiff. "When it comes down to the race, we are all racing, everybody is serious. You have got to give it 100 per cent. It is one of the first races of the year. Riders will be at a closer level. I don't think any guys will be too exceptional from the other."
Certainly, a Tour Down Under win would look good on the Rodriguez resume. In his first year as a pro in 1996, he won two stages of the GP Cycliste de Beauce in 1996, the Fresca International Classic plus two stags, the Chevron Bay Trials and a stage of the Tour of China.
The following year he won a stage of the Redlands Classic, a stage of the Niedersachsen Rundfahrt, a stage of the Fresca International Classic and the Red River Classic and two stages. In 1998 he won two stages of the Tour of Langkawi and a stage of the Niedersachsen Rundfahrt. In 1999 he won a stage of the Tour of Langkawi, the Schaal Sels and a stage of the Trans Canada Tour.
In 2000 he won two stages of the Niedersachsen Rundfahrt, a stage of the Quatre Jours de Dunkerque, a stage of the UNIQA Classic, the First Union Classic and a stage of the Tour de Suisse. He also finished second in the First Union USPRO Championships, but was given the title of USPRO champion as the winner (Henk Vogels) was Australian.
Last year, he won the First Union USPRO Championship and a stage in the Tour de Luxembourg.