By Antonio J. Salmerón
News broke yesterday that triple World Champion Oscar Freire (Rabobank) will not be able to participate in the next World Championships in Salzburg, Austria, due to ongoing neck problems. His teammate Juan Antonio Flecha is not in doubt for the event, despite his accident during the third stage of the Tour of Poland, where a dog crossed his way, according to the Spanish selector, Francisco Antequera in El Faro de Murcia.
Given this one unforeseeable circumstance, the Spanish leadership for Salzburg is reduced to the Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears rider, Alejandro Valverde, but now Antequera is looking for "someone to lead out Valverde in the sprint. If we didn't have to depend on our national selection, I'm sure that Tom Boonen would not have passed Valverde if he had a lead-out man in the sprint," he said.
Among the candidates Antequera shuffles is Xavier Florencio, the last winner of the Clásica de San Sebastian. He stands the greatest chances to be included in the team. "We will try to wrap an efficient team around Valverde to mainly face the final section," Antequera said, who also cleared up the rumours concerning young Astana rider Jose Joaquin Rojas, currently the best Spaniard in the Tour of Poland.
"I would be pleased to have him, because he has a great future, but there aren't enough guarantees for him being able to finish a very hard route like in Salzburg, with a climb that will be the decisive mark of the Championships race," he added.
After abandoning the Vuelta, his teammate Luis Leon Sanchez will see on Monday if the virus he contracted will prevent him from travelling to Austria. Sánchez hopes "to feel the necessary improvement to be able to participate in the World Championships time trial," which will take place in Salzburg on September 21.