The strongest doesn't always win

Rabobank’s Oscar Freire won his third stage in the Tour de France, beating Robbie McEwen on the line...

An interview with Oscar Freire, July 11, 2006

Rabobank’s Oscar Freire won his third stage in the Tour de France, beating Robbie McEwen on the line in Dax on Tuesday. Afterwards, in the press conference, he explained to the journalists how he appreciated his victory, the second at this year’s Tour. Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé reports.

Q: You didn't celebrate when you crossed the line, why was that?

OF: Well, I didn't know that I had won the race, as McEwen was closing in very fast. Also, there were some experiences in the past where I learned that it’s dangerous the celebrate too soon. In Milan-Sanremo, I won after Zabel raised his arm too early [in 2004]. This year, I was in the losing position when I thought I had won the race, but it turned out that Valverde was the winner [during the first stage of the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco]. Besides that, I didn't celebrate because I didn't know if the breakaway had yet been caught or not.

Q: After your first stage win, you said that you started off too early, and this sprint looked more academic. Is there a sort of sprint you can't win in the Tour de France?

OF: Hmm... a sprint after a mountain stage might be impossible for me (laughs). The sprints over here are very difficult, because nobody shows respect for another. Due to the way the sprints are unfolding, it’s not always the strongest rider who wins the race. For example today, I might not have been the strongest in the race.

Q: Due to the absence of Petacchi, there is no longer a train leading out the sprint. Everybody seems to be happy with that, apart from Boonen. What’s your view of that?

OF: The fact that Boonen isn't winning stages might have other reasons too. Everything’s going wrong for him: sometimes he starts the sprint too early, then he gets boxed in. But it’s really not that bad, as he wore the yellow jersey for a few days; I think that’s very nice as well. He’s also struggling with the high expectations of the Belgian press, which of course he can't always satisfy.

Q: How hard is it to be riding here while your wife is expected to give birth to your first child?

OF: Until now, it isn't that hard as the baby is not born yet. It will be harder once the baby’s there, which is planned for Wednesday. It’s hard that I can't be there, but it would be even harder if I wouldn't be winning stages.

Q: How are the negotiations for your new contract developing?

OF: (His team press officer whispers into his ear) I’m not allowed to talk about it (laughs), but I do want to say that I hope to stay with the team.

Q: You're currently standing third overall in the points classification, trailing thirty points on McEwen. Do you hope you can keep on battling in this competition?

OF: When I started in this Tour de France, I dreamed about the green jersey. But the yellow jersey remains the priority of the team. We'll need to work for Menchov and of course I’ll need to get over the mountains.

Q: Against all expectations, you've won two stages that were almost completely flat; have you developed into a pure sprinter?

OF: It isn't new to me, but I still prefer a sprint after a more selective finale; for example with some climbs not too far from the finish. But in the Tour de France, those stages will probably not be finishing in a bunch sprint...

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