Rabobank's Oscar Freire opened his 2010 season account with victory on day two of Challenge Mallorca with a sprint win over André Greipel (HTC-Columbia) and Manuel Cardoso (Footon-Servetto).
In his second race of the year, the Trofeo Cala Millor, Freire finished fastest out of a group of sprinters that included in-form rivals Greipel and Cardoso. Although pleased with his victory, Freire was cautious in his assessment of the result. "It is indeed a nice feeling, but we must not exaggerate," he said on the team's website. "I'm not that much better than last year around this time."
The Spaniard's measured response to victory stems from a lean 2009 season, which saw him claim just two wins. Both victories came at the Tour de Romandie in the spring, but the long dry spell was not that hard to survive, he claimed. "I never doubted myself. I can still do it. The difference between winning and losing is minimal for sprinters."
Despite talk of his imminent retirement last year, Freire ultimately decided to prolong his career as far as the end of 2011, with his attention this season on the Giro d'Italia and a possible fourth World Championship title.
With the experience of 12 seasons as a professional behind him Freire, 33, is only too aware of the variables that can affect victory. "Your mood, type of day, circumstances and sometimes someone else is simply better."
New lead-out looks good with Leezer
In his first two races at this year's Mallorca Challenge, Freire has been led out by teammate Tom Leezer for the first time. Sunday's race, where Freire finished third behind Katusha's Robbie McEwen, "was a test, we made a small mistake but it actually felt very good. Today was so smooth, it couldn't go wrong."
His collaboration with Leezer "was excellent," said the three-time World Champion, but he was not surprised. "I knew what Tom could do [even though] we have only had a rare chance to ride together."
Freire admitted that his first major goal of the year will be Milano-Sanremo, which he won in 2004 and 2007. "Whether that will be with Tom, it is too early to say."