‘Fast Freddie’ races through Emblem Academy

Cycling champion Freddie Rodriguez high-fives Enblem Academy students on his way to the stage during an assembly at the school on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal
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A four-time U.S. National Road Race Champion and seven-time Tour de France competitor, ‘Fast Freddie’ Rodriguez taught students about bike safety on the roads and of simple ways to stay fit during his Tuesday visit to a Saugus school.

In conjunction with the Amgen Tour of California passing through Santa Clarita today, cycling champion Freddie Rodriguez visited Emblem Academy to teach students about being safe, smart and active.

“I wanted to teach kids and inspire them to be active,” Rodriguez said.  “It’s also a great way to motivate the kids and their parents to come out to the race and watch the finish.”

Cycling champion Freddie Rodriguez asks a student volunteer what differences she can pick out on his racing bike during an assembly at Enblem Academy on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Named “Be safe!  Be active!  Be smart!” the event was presented by Amgen and Khan Academy, a nonprofit education group, to teach students at eight schools throughout California the importance of safety and physical activity for a heart healthy lifestyle.

Emblem Academy Principal Jon Baker said he received an email asking if he would be interested in having Amgen and Rodriguez present to his students.

“Knowing that the Amgen Tour of California was coming, I thought it was great timing and an opportunity for our kids to get into cycling,” Baker said.  “I also really liked the message he gave to our students of being healthy, smart and safe.”

Cycling champion Freddie Rodriguez high-gives Enblem Academy students after teaching them safety tips during an assembly at the school on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

During his visit to Emblem, Rodriguez shared his own story of finding his passion for bicycle racing after watching the 1984 Olympic Road Race in Los Angeles.

“I watched the Olympics in Los Angeles and wanted to compete and started racing bikes,” Rodriguez said.  “I also got an opportunity to live an active lifestyle.”

Rodriguez also showed off his racing bike, instructed students to always wear their helmets tightly on their heads and conducted a safety clinic to show students how to alert cars they were stopping or turning with hand signals.

“Make sure your parents know these rules, wear your helmets and be safe,” Rodriguez said.

Enblem Academy students dance around as they learn to “get active” from cycling champion Freddie Rodriguez during an assembly at the school on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

To encourage students to be active, Rodriguez and Amgen blasted music through the school’s outdoor speakers and had them touch their toes, stretch, jog in place, jump and dance.

“The biggest thing is activity,” Rodriguez said.  “They don’t understand the benefits yet… but those benefits will keep coming as they get older.”

One lucky student, Precious Ortiz, also received a free bike and helmet from Schwinn after a school wide drawing for the free bike.

“I don’t know what to say, I’m just so excited,” Ortiz said.

Cycling champion Freddie Rodriguez takes a photo via drone with Enblem Academy students during an assembly at the school on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

All students from the school also received goodie bags full of bracelets, informational pamphlets, a cowbell, sunglasses and thunder sticks.

“I think it’s great for our city to have Amgen back and it creates a lot of excitement for the city and also for our students,” Baker said.  “Being safe, healthy and smart are elements that I would want my students to have every day.”

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On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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