After nine years of successful collaboration, Oscar Freire and Dutch team Rabobank will part ways for what could be the rider's last season, 2012. The separation hasn't been easy, as both sides have now declared.
"It happenend with a coolness that I would not have imagined in my worst moments," Freire told El Pais. He will continue on with Russian team Katusha next year. "They could have told me at the beginning of the year that they did not want me anymore: I declined great offers from GreenEdge and others because I was certain that I would stay with Rabobank. But they took advantage of an opportunity they created themselves. To end it this way is very sad, but they are the ones who were at fault."
Freire complained that the offer the team management made him in August had been too low, so low that it implicated they did not want him to accept. "I thought they weren't being honest. I've always been straight with them. It was a huge blow. It's true that it hadn't been my best year, but my return had still been good," added the 35-year-old, who won two stages at the Vuelta a Andalucía this season.
Erik Breukink, Rabobank team manager, of course had a different version and was adamant that the squad made efforts to keep the rider. "Between his market value and what he asked for, there was a big difference," the Dutchman declared. "Despite that, we increased our offer, but at a certain time Oscar told us that he would stop cycling, that he would only continue if he won the Worlds again. To us, that was definite, and when he changed his mind we told him that the conditions had changed. It's a pity because it's not a nice ending."
Indeed, there was some confusion about Freire's continuation as a pro rider when reports indicated that he may end his career if he didn't win another World Championship title. But even before the start of the Vuelta a España, in early August, the Spaniard confirmed his will to continue, saying, "If I don't ride for Rabobank [next year] I will do for someone else."
In any case, the relationship between the rider and the team turned sour. "We are sad because we always had good ties with Oscar," Breukink added. "It's hard to separate the human aspect but it's all about negociations and money. I'm certain that he can continue one more year at a good level - and I hope he does - but please, no victory at the Amstel Gold Race!"
The Dutch team has been desperate to win their home Classic in recent years, and Freire has announced that the one-day race is one of his goals next year. "I'm already thinking about Milano-Sanremo, Amstel... At Katusha, Valerio Piva will be one of my directors and I've known him from my days at Mapei. The team change will be good for me, I will get more motivation."