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Photo ©: Sirotti

90th Tour de France - July 5-27, 2003

2003 Tour de France rider journals

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Fred Rodriguez: Fast Freddie's Fables

Nationality: USA
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 and Tour 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 diary.

Diary entries

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 pretty quickly!

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 Peña 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 "Peña" (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.

Ciao, Fred

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 farenheit.

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 hard.

Ciao, Fred

Stages 4-7

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 day today.

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 day.

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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