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By Fred Rodriguez, Domo-Farm Frites rider
Whew, today was tough. After yesterday’s fiasco, I was really hurting. It was not very sportsmanlike what ONCE and U.S. Postal did yesterday. ONCE attacked as a full team at the feed zone on a windy day. Feed zones are already dangerous enough, and it’s just an unwritten not to attack in them.
Sometimes it might happen that a single guy might try to get away in one. But not for an entire world class team to do it. It’s like attacking when the yellow jersey gets a flat. It caught our team and other teams by surprise, and the fact that Postal and Telekom followed suit, well, we weren’t happy about that. At the end, at least I got a fourth place out of it.
Today, I was a tired guy after a 100K time trial yesterday. Our main goal in the time trial was to keep Axel in g.c. contention. We started at a comfortable pace, but right from the gun, I could not go hard. My heart rate was depressed, and I was the weakest guy. In a team time trial, you’re only a strong as your weakest guy. Even if you have one guy that’s super strong, a lot of times it doesn’t help you, because they do a hard pull and then you have to slow down again as the weaker guys come through. Trying to find a fine balance is hard.
It was the first team time trial we had all ridden together. Most teams were riding a tight two-person echelon and moving in a circle. We tried to go with longer pulls and a one-man echelon, but with that crosswind, it slowed us down. In looking back at it, we realized that. Axel rode very strong for us. So did Museeuw and Wadecki.
I don’t know where it is that we are staying. They put us up in this hotel about an hour from the finish. One of the funniest things for me is that you look at the city you’re in, but you have no idea where it is. As you do the Tour de France, you don’t know where you are. You know you are in France somewhere, but that’s it. Your family calls and asks you where you are, and you don’t know.
Mentally and physically, I’m trying to find myself. Yesterday was a good and a bad day. I had to do a lot of work for the team and for Axel, but then in the end I was almost going for the win. Today, I am paying for the effort.
My results are not what I wanted them to be. Sometimes you prepare and plan for months for a challenge, and your legs and your mind are okay. You feel like you are ready, and you get to the challenge and you find flaws. You try to figure out what’s wrong, was it getting sick in Catalonia, or what was it? On the other hand, you have to relax and realize it’s a long Tour. That’s part of the ups and downs of racing.
It’s fun and it gives me pride to wear the stars-and-stripes. I worked hard for it, and the odds were against me this year, and I pulled it off. It’s the first time anyone has done two in a row. Eddy made a special bike for me, too, and the whole team is really psyched about it. The team surprised me with it in Dunkirk. They told me to come check right away on some luggage, and I was getting stressed out that something was missing, and they were all standing with it out in the hall, like “ta da.” I had asked the director a few weeks ago if there was any chance of them getting me a new bike, and he said they were really busy and probably not. But they were all just playing with me. It was fun.
The main feature of the bike is that it is oversized Easton aluminum and super light. And of course the special paint job with stars and stripes. I think Eddy is working on marketing it in the U.S. The rumor I heard was that Eddy’s wife and daughter were behind it. Anyway, it’s pretty cool.