!http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/fredrod.jpg|style=padding:10px;|align=left|src=http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/fredrod.jpg!Just got our first teaser to the mountains. I wouldn’t call it a real mountain stage, but by the way we raced, probably harder.
From the start, the pace was high. Everyone was looking for a good breakaway, but it wasn’t happening.
Not good news for me because if the break didn’t go in the flats, it for sure would go in the first climb. That meant lots of suffering for me.
We hit the climb and the attacks were on. I think I saw Hincapie try like four or five times, but teams are afraid of him getting too big of a lead, as he could be a wild card for yellow.
Three kilometers from the top, the pace was just a bit too hot for me. I decided to follow the second group, as they seemed to be at a more reasonable pace.
I did make a mistake by drifting to the back of the group over the top, not knowing the roads were open. It meant for bad crosswinds. I was dead last in the group, which was costing me too much energy to hang. I knew there were other small groups, so I let go.
The hope was that our small group would eventually catch back on when the peloton would finally let the break go.
It took a bit longer than I expected. And my little group was having a hard time. Luckily, I had big guns Boonen and Robbie. We all rotated until we finally made contact with the whole group. I think everyone was feeling the effects of that early pace, so I wasn’t the only one in the red.
At that point, a big break had formed and we had no one to represent. Cadel was afraid that someone in that group would get too much time, so we decided to help CSC with the chase.
From then on the pace was high and the road just went up and down. My job now was to keep Cadel out of the wind. He seems to like my style of cruising through the peloton. I guess, being a sprinter, I seem to be able to open holes that are usually not there. Cadel is a bit of a nervous rider in the peloton, so I have to keep him close to the front. Sometimes I have to put him in his place when he wants to ride too far forward. Lot more wind for both of us. I try to keep him somewhere in the 20th position, at worst. Just far enough to get a good draft, but still close enough to stay out of trouble.
We passed the next couple of climbs pretty much under control. My teammates and CSC kept the pace. I was able to ride the front and keep Cadel in a comfortable spot.
Once we hit the flats, the race was on a fast pace and we needed to start making ground on the breakaway. With five kilometers from the bottom of the last climb, Lampre came up to give a hand. But they put the pace so high it really put everyone in the red.
As we entered the bottom of the climb, I saw the banner and it read 16 kilometers. At the same time, guys started to attack while others sprinted for their lives to keep up. I wasn’t sure how that helped any. It only got rid of the guys that would eventually drop off anyway, so I didn’t see the purpose.
I stayed at the front of the group for the first three kilometers in case Cadel needed my help. Then I noticed the road was so steep there would be little I could do, so...time to shut the engine off.
I decided to enjoy the crowds and the mountain as I went up. I basically went as slow as I could go up the climb. By the top, the group with the sprinters caught me.
At the top, I just hung with Robbie and my teammates. We had plenty of time to make the time cut, so we were in no hurry to make it to the finish. Again the crowds were good. Over the top of the last climb we could only pass one at a time.
Cadel tells me he had a good day and didn’t have to dig too deep. Chris seemed to have a harder day. He said he was at the limit over the last climb, but he was still with the first 25 guys. Still a good ride.
The rest of our climbers had a bit of a harder day. For our boys, it was just surviving, especially since some of them had some hard work over the course. Chris tells me that Vino didn’t look so hot on the climb, but that was expected.
It also seemed that not too many guys really had the gas to make any good attacks. Most guys attacked and could only hold a hard pace for no more than 500 meters.
The Tour is still pretty open and guys just don’t seem ready to show their cards. Or they’re scared to, in case it doesn’t pay off.
I think tomorrow will really show who has the legs to contend the tour, but I am expecting surprises too.
By the way, I have been sitting in the bus for an hour trying to get out of the finishing village. Piece of advice if you come to watch a Tour mountain finish: ride your bike to the finish or make sure you have a hotel there.
I would recommend coming to the tour. It’s worth the trip. Something you will always remember. But it isn’t easy, unless you’re my family member and have VIP passes.
Colombian-born Freddie Rodriguez is a professional American road racing cyclist. He is a three-time US national champion and currently races for team Predictor-Lotto. His nickname, "Fast Freddie", is due to his reputation as a sprint specialist. His Fast Freddie Coffee, the Fast Freddie Foundation, and his new Team Fast Freddie help to raise funds to support youth cycling in America. Freddie resides in Emeryville, California, USA and Girona, Spain. Freddie is riding this year's Tour and will give us an insider's perspective on life inside the peloton. He welcomes questions and will try to respond during the Tour.