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Full Circle: ‘Fast’ Freddie ends career where it began

Fred Rodriguez ends his 17-year professional career at Richmond worlds, racing the team time trial with the Jelly Belly squad.

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A flash of color, the whir of disc wheels, the cheering crowd.

Fred “Fast Freddie” Rodriguez of Continental team Jelly Belly sped into retirement on Sunday, the team time trial world championships in Richmond the final race of a pro career that started in 1999.

“I talked about it a couple years ago when I signed with Jelly Belly and was like, I would love to end my career here,” Rodriguez said about being at the world championships in Richmond, Virginia. “The dream’s come true.”

Rodriguez enjoyed his final days as a pro with his Jelly Belly team in the lead-up to the time trial. He may not have the same finishing sprint he once had, but the experience he brought to the young Jelly Belly squad more than made up for the reduced speed.

Before coming stateside, Rodriguez made a living going elbow-to-elbow with the best sprinters in the world, hence the nickname “Fast Freddie.” The highlights of his career center on his performances in Europe and the national championships.

“Winning my fourth national pro championships is a big highlight coming toward the end of my career. Winning four pro championships, second in Milano-Sanremo, second in Gent-Wevelgem, winning a stage in the Giro, those are the beautiful moments.”

Rodriguez scored the runner-up position in Sanremo and Gent-Wevelgem in 2002, behind Italian Mario Cipollini on both occasions. The American also won stages in the Tour de Suisse and Four Days of Dunkerque.

“Fast Freddie” owned the national road championships in the early 2000s, bringing home three stars-and-stripes jerseys in the span of five years. A record-breaking fourth national road title would come nearly a decade later in 2013, a year that he began without a team contract.

A stage win at the Giro may be a highlight of his career, but “Fast Freddie” also made a living leading out three-time Tour de France points classification winner Robbie McEwan.

Rodriguez has been around the block, riding for a multitude of teams, from the Mapei-Quick-Step program to U.S. domestic teams Rock Racing and Jelly Belly. He seems content with retirement and is happy he was able to go out on home soil at the biggest event of the year.

“Definitely for the U.S., it’s a bigger feat to deal with the logistics and permitting we have to run events, it is a lot harder than in Europe,” Rodriguez said. “The infrastructure we have and shutting down the course is a lot harder in the U.S., so it’s pretty impressive.”

Richmond is a fitting terminus for Rodriguez, 42, and a way for him to close his career the way it began. His first-ever worlds was the junior world championships in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The event he competed in was the team time trial.

Rodriguez spoke of the complexity of the event, the cohesion and focus required to do well in the team time trial. “We actually got here on Wednesday, and we want to get the guys together and paceline and get the experience,” Rodriguez said. His team finished 20th on Sunday.

“It’s a little nostalgic for me because I competed in the team time trial at the junior world championships in the U.S. in Colorado,” Rodriguez said. “To basically begin my career in team time trialing and to end in the team time trial is pretty cool.” The men’s junior USA team captured silver in 1991.