Freddy Rodriguez wins USPRO Cycling championship

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Going around the last turn and into the final straightaway of Sunday's First Union USPRO Cycling Championships, Fred Rodriguez thought back to last year's race when he lost a last-second sprint to the wire and had to settle for second.

This time, the rider from the Domo Farm Frites team wasn't taking any chances.

Rather than wait for the traditional closing dash of a few hundred meters, Rodriguez started his move with about a half-mile remaining.

No one could go with him and he cruised to an easy five-second victory over Trent Klasna of Team Saturn in the 251-kilometer (156-mile) race, finishing in 5 hours, 57 minutes and 56 seconds.

George Hincapie of the United States Postal Service, finished third, giving the race its first 1-2-3 American finish in its 17-year history.

In the women's First Union Liberty Classic, Germany's Petra Rossner put on one of her patented late power surges and wheeled to victory for an unprecedented fourth straight time in this event.

Rodriguez was part of a six-pack of riders who broke away from the main field with approximately 20 miles remaining in the race.

The pack included Rodriguez, Klasna, Hincapie, Jakob Storm Piil of Denmark, Fabrizio Guidi of Italy and Pedro Munoz Horillo of Spain. The riders took turns attacking until the last lap. Then Rodriguez turned it up a notch at the far end of Benjamin Franklin Parkway and couldn't be headed.

"That's usually not my winning move,'' admitted Rodriguez, who earned dlrs 40,000 for the victory. "My main thing was to keep the speed going. When I saw they hesitated, I kept the speed high for a couple seconds to see if they would jump on.

"I saw they all hesitated again and that's when I put the hammer down. At that point I couldn't believe it. I had the gap and I won the race in a way I never expected to win it.''

Last year, Rodriguez picked up the U.S. national championship jersey for being the first American behind winner Henk Vogels of Australia. This year, he can head for the Tour de France wearing the jersey knowing it's a legitimate title.

"This is greater for the fact that it's a 'double,''' Rodriguez said. "It's something that's always hard to do. Bike racing, it's such a grueling sport. At the same time, it can come down to inches (centimeters).''

Klasna said he resigned himself to second when Rodriguez broke away.

"There was nothing I could do at that point,'' he said. "If I chased him down, I would have been third or fourth. Better to settle for second.''

All three top riders said the American sweep was a good sign for the nation's standing in the sport.

"It shows American cycling is coming up,'' Rodriguez said. "George and I race in Europe and Trent is coming off an American circuit. It shows how he's coming up to the (European-based) level.''

Rossner credited her team, Saturn, with helping her attain her fifth overall title in Philadelphia. Teammate Anna Milward was second.

"With about 200 meters to go, Anna said, 'Let's just go!''' said Rossner, who finished the 116-kilometer (72-mile) course in 3:01.47. "You just have to wait until there's an opening. My teammates did more than I expected. I just tried to give it back to them at the end.''

Results: First Union USPRO Cycling Championship

1. Fred Rodriguez, Domo Farm Frites, 5:57.56
2. Trent Klasna, Saturn, 5:58.01
3. George Hincapie, United States Postal Service, 5:58.01
4. Fabrizio Guidi, Mercury-Viatel
5. Jakob Storm Piil, CSC-World Online
6. Pedro Munoz Horillo, Mapei-Quick Step
7. Viatcheslav Ekimov, United States Postal Service
8. Leon Van Bon, Mercury-Viatel
9. Henk Vogels, Mercury-Viatel
10. Julian Dean, United States Postal Service.

11. Dirk Friel, Zaxby's Cycling
12. Steffen Radochla, Festina Lotus
13. Simon Kessler, IBM Lotus
14. Harm Jansen, Saturn
15. John Lieswyn, 7-UP/Colorado Cyclist

Results: First Union Liberty Classic

1. Petra Rossner, Saturn, 3:01.47
2. Anna Milward, Saturn
3. Debbie Mansveld, Vlaanderen T Interim
4. Sandy Espeseth, Team Intersports
5. Mirjan Melchers, Acca Due O-Lorena Camicie
6. Susann Ljungskog, Vlaanderen T Interim
7. Sara Symington, British National
8. Heidi Vandevijver, Vlaanderen T Interim
9. Paula MacNamara, Verizon Wireless
10. Joanne Kiesandowski, Proctor & Gamble

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