90th Tour de France - July 5-27, 2003
2003 Tour de France rider journals
Photo: © AFP
Fred Rodriguez: Fast Freddie's Fables
Team: Vini Caldirola - So.di
This is the fourth Tour de France for the Colombian-born Vini Caldirola - So.di
rider whose back-to-back USPRO championships in 2000 and 2001 earned him the
nickname 'Captain America'.
So far this year the 29-year-old sprinter has won stages at the Tour of Rhodes
of Georgia - and might have done better than second overall at Georgia had
he not been controversially penalised by officials for pacing behind his team
car to rejoin the peloton after a crash.
Fast Freddy says he has just one target at the Tour: to win a stage. He'll
be keeping us informed of his progress toward that goal in his Tour de France
Stages 14 & 15 - Gut buster: Forced abandon
I had been having some stomach troubles since the second Pyrenees stage. You
have to be careful about what you eat on the Tour, especially when your body
is so stressed from the hard, hard racing. I'm not sure if it is a comeback
from the previous stomach troubles, or what. On the Tour de France, you just
never know about the food preparation in these hotels. I wasn't sure what the
problems were that started on Stage 14 and afterwards, the stomach problems
and weakness kicked in at the hotel.
Your body is getting attacked so hard from the stress of the racing that all
it takes is a small bug; something rotten, something bad to tax your system.
I was feeling kind of bloated on Stage 13, but seemed to recover during the
race. Afterwards, when I got back to the hotel, I got really lethargic and my
stomach was hurting. The team gave me some stuff to keep my stomach from turning
over too much and then I was staying away from foods that were too active on
the stomach. I couldn't even drink coffee!
Survival mode isn't that bad for us non-climbers. You can usually get through
the mountain stages if you're healthy. My legs still feel pretty good and if
I can get through Stage 15, there is the rest day on Tuesday and I ought to
recover just fine. It's probably something quick going through my system. My
wife Annie is coming over after the Tour and I'm looking forward to that!
[After 50km of Stage 15, Fred Rodriguez was forced to abandon the 2003 Tour
de France with digestive problems. Look for a final report on Cyclingnews later
this week from Fast Freddy]
Rest Day - Stage 13
Survival: the name of the game
Hey to all the Cyclingnews readers from France.
Here's an update on what's up with me in the Tour de France. On rest day we
had a nice, relaxing day off. My Vini Caldirola-So.Di team took a two hour easy
ride then in the afternoon, I took it easy and read a book. I like to read about
business in general and sports business since that is something interesting
to me. The book is called "On The Ball" and it's pretty good.
In the TT, I just took it easy. I just went hard enough to make sure I would
make the time cut. It was a really hard course, made harder by the heat. The
whole course had some headwind and it was slightly uphill. The downhills ended
In the Pyrenees, my goal is simply to survive. I want to save my energy and
strength as much as possible for the last few days to still give a stage win
a shot. My morale is pretty high so I think I can do something.
I called my Dad back home on rest day. He used to race back in Colombia before
he moved to the States and he loves to ride. That's where I get my passion and
talent from. He had a heart valve replacement last year and now he's back on
the bike. My Dad lives in Ontario, California and goes riding up in the Los
Angeles Mountains. He's still a good rider and loves the hills. His ride went
ok, he told me...he had three flats and had to borrow a tube from someone to
get back home though.
My Dad was pretty excited about Victor Hugo Peņa taking the first-ever Yellow
Jersey this Tour. Victor Hugo is a really nice guy...the Tour De France people
can't get the tilde symbol on his jersey so it looks like "Peņa" (pity), so
I always kid him by saying 'what a pity'.
My wife Annie is getting ready to come back over to Spain from the Bay Area
and she's going to bring our Australian sheepdog Kaileh. I can't wait to see
Annie and Kaileh, too.
Hi to everybody back home in the States.
PS: we spoke to Freddy's best friend in the peloton, USPS-Berry Floor's George
Hincapie about his longtime buddy. "Fred is riding better than last year at
the Tour De France. He should have some good chances after the Pyrenees", said
George. "Last year he was sick so his Tour was kind of survival mode. Fred looks
really motivated this year and he's been getting in some breaks."
Stages 8-Rest day
Rest & Relaxation...For A Day
Yesterday, our gc guy Stefano Garzelli and his right hand man Eddy Mazzoleni
went home. Garzelli had a comeback of his throat infection and Mazzoleni has
the same bad guts that has hit the rest of the team. Before the mountains, we
had some digestive problems and in the Tour you can get sick so easily. Bossoni
had a pretty high fever so he'll try and make it to the rest day and survive.
I'm feeling pretty good now; the mountains have been hard! I managed to stay
with the first group on Stage 9 to Gap over the Lauteret and then could relax
in the last 50km, rather than have all the tension that comes in the big grupetto
trying to make it to the finish before the time cut. The Tour this year is very
hot...on the climb Monday, we had the wrong tires. With the road surface like
melting tar, it felt like our tires were glued to the road. The heat was incredible
and the black tar was bringing the temperature on the road over 100 degrees
My friend George Hincapie sent me some text messages on my phone to ask me
how I was feeling. He said it was hard for him but (USPS) was doing its job
and he's surviving. Yesterday on the stage to Marseille we were hoping for a
sprint since I was the designated guy, but a big group went early and we rode
in pretty easy considering the sweltering heat. There were plenty of guys who
were no threat on gc that wanted to give it shot because they knew that Tuesday
was one of the few days they could get away. With Petacchi at home, the big
sprint threats are McEwen, Cooke and O'Grady. At this point, Stuey and Erik
Zabel should be stronger as the other sprinters have been weakened by the mountains.
I've been hearing tons of Americans in the mountains; they're all up there
looking for Lance. Since I'm American, Lance's fans are my fans too. It's great
to see and hear the Americans who've taken such a long trip to support us at
the Tour. Thanks you guys!
On rest day, we'll take an easy spin in the morning, then have a massage, lunch
and probably a nap. Everyone is already pretty tired at this Tour de France
from the extreme heat so I imagine the entire peloton is looking forward to
a day off.
Hi to my folks and wife Annie back home in the States. Annie, don't work too
Hot roads, hotheads; Petacchi incredible
We've been racing hard across France; the last two stages have been typical
Tour de France stages with an early break and a hard chase that ends in a sprint,
both of which were won by Petacchi, who is incredible so far in this Tour.
Yesterday in Nevers, my Vini Caldirola squad was looking for a leadout for
me. It just ended up getting pretty chaotic in the finale and my guys were caught
on the left side of the road with 3km to go, so I went into the wind to find
my own spot. I managed to get pretty close to the front and when we came around
the final corner with a couple of kilometers to go, I was back out in the wind
again and ended up wasting a lot of energy.
I thought I was too far back - 10th wheel with 500m to go isn't that great
of a position! Then Petacchi jumped with 250m to go and I didn't expect him
to go from that far out. When he jumped, Kirsipuu jumped and so did I, but I
hesitated a moment. And then Thor Hushovd completely hooked me on my right side
with 200m to go; I lost momentum and that was it for Stage 5.
Yesterday and today, a lot of sprinters teams like FDJeux.com were chasing
hard. I've seen Tyler Hamilton in the group and he's hanging in there, but Tyler
looks like he's in pain. I thought that a break would stay away Friday and it
it almost did. We caught the break right in the last kilometer; I didn't see
those guys because it was pretty hectic in the final in Lyon.
I was kind of frustrated how the finale went yesterday. My guys got caught
on one side and I was on the other. Then Romans jumped when Petacchi went...
and it was all over. Right now, Petacchi is incredible - better than Cipo because
he doessn't need a team to win. He can do it both ways.
Today was the first stage in the mountains and the key word for me is survival.
My stomach is feeling better from the lousy food we ate in a lousy hotel the
other night so we're hoping that our GC guy Stefano Garzelli will have a good
Hey to my wife Annie and my Mom and Dad back home!
Prologue - Stage 3
Fourth Tour and looking for more
Once again, I'm back at the Tour de France for the fourth time. It's exciting
to be back at the big race of the year. All the media and all the desire every
rider has to be here. Frankly, I'm lucky to be here since I was having some
lung infection problems after Philly. But I did a test last week before the
Tour and I've worked really hard this year to be at the Tour. The lungs are
not 100 percent yet but mentally I'm great and my body is getting better every
The prologue was good. It was really well set up on big roads so people could
watch the riders. It was a hard prologue; I know I was suffering through it!
But it made for a nice start for the 100th Anniversary of the Tour. For guys
like Lance & Tyler, it was a good course for them; for guys who had power. When
I did the first part of the course, I had a decent time but I may have gone
out a little too hard. I was lacking intensity since I dropped out of Catalunya
because I was sick.
On Monday, Stage One, it was very nervous in the beginning. The first 50km
were fast and hard with a lot of attacks and panic moves. Then once the break
went it settled down until the last 20km as the sprint approached. Once we got
into the last 3km, everything was still controlled. We had a fast downhill and
the roads were still wide, but when you come into that final kilometer, you
are just not expecting a chicane like that! The road veered off the main road
and you had to turn into a blind corner. All you could see was a wall of fencing
turning to your right and you just don't know when you'll turn left. The guys
behind have to brake and when the road is narrow going into the chicane, there
is nowhere to hide. You can either crash into a wall or crash into the other
guys. The guy from Kelme caused the crash because his foot slipped and he ran
into the guy in front, but the major problem was that the finish was not set
up well. There was no margin for error. Usually you can see a crash like that
happening and move out of the way. In the case of Stage One, it was impossible
to see that far ahead.
My role is to lead out Romans Vainsteins. Being our first Tour together, we
had some panic and went to the front too soon. Our guy hit the front too soon
when we should have settled in and waited. That put the train in the wrong mode
to win the sprint.
Stage Two was another sprinters' stage and we were on the same plan; to lead
out Romans. But with 8km to go, we lost 60 percent of the team in a crash so
I didn't really know what to do by myself. I was at the front and tried hard
to get in position but I was stuck in the wind a lot. I thought I had the good
wheel fort a while in the last kilometer, but the Brioches team weren't strong
enough to hold their position, so with 900m to go we got jumped from the right.
The acceleration was pretty fast; I tried to grab a wheel but I was out of the
line. I sat there in the wind trying to get back in but once you are out, it's
tough. I was fighting with Zabel to let me in; we sat there and sat there and
finally I went behind Zabel. Just when I did that, the swarm came from the left
side and I got stuck in the middle and the race was over. I was in the top 10,
but there was nowhere to go.
Yesterday's Stage 3 worked a bit better since Vainsteins was second. He's getting
better and so is our communication. I probably went too hard to bring him up
into position and then we got jumped by Petacchi. But our communication is getting
better every stage.
Today's team time trial on Stage 4 was really hard. My Vini Caldirola team
had a good ride today for seventh. We beat teams like Credit Agricole and CSC
so that is better than we expected. In fact, it was a big surprise for us! We
started a bit fast and got a good sprinters' rhythm going. It was pretty windy
and after 20km, a picnic umbrella blew onto the road from the left and hit my
rear wheel. Luckily I was last and didn't fall. Otherwise it would have been
a disaster! But we are really happy with our performance and now our leader
Stefano Garzelli is sitting in a good place and we hope he's good for the next
few mountain stages.
I'm glad to be here and glad that my lungs are feeling better. The last few
years, I've come into the Tour sick and not done so well. Thanks to all the
Americans who we hear yelling along the road - that's great! This is my fourth
year at the Tour and there are more and more American fans.
And I've been hearing from my wife Annie and my Mom and Dad back home; hey
you guys! I'm safe and hopefully going to win a stage this year!
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