By Gregor Brown in Châteauroux
Spaniard Oscar Freire's surge for a fourth-career stage win in the Tour de France was cut short to a second place by younger Mark Cavendish Wednesday in Châteauroux.
"I did my best and that is the most important," three-time World Champion Freire, 32, stated to Cyclingnews after the finish of the sprinters' stage in France's Loire Valley. "I saw the Cavendish was very, very strong."
Freire lays claim to three Tour de France stage wins; he took one in 2002 and another two in 2006. Adding a fourth win against top rivals at the world's biggest bike race would help him in his 2009 contract negotiations.
But the Spaniard was conscious of what held him back. "All the best sprinters in the world are here, of course it is not easy," Freire continued.
He normally does not count on many team-mates to carry him to victory. Spaniard Juan Antonio Flecha made the task easier with support in the finale.
"Flecha was really, really good. In the last kilometre, he took me to the front and then it was my job. I had a good result. First place was not possible, but maybe another day."
Contract extension with Rabobank
One thing is certain: If victorious, Freire will score his wins for his team Rabobank in the next two years. The Dutch squad officially announced the 2-year contract extension of the Spaniard on Thursday morning, while rumours of an agreement were perpetuated in the press since last week-end.
"With Oscar, with have a world class sprinter that has already done a lot for the team. We know his worth and that is why we are really happy to continue the collaboration with him," said team manager Erik Breukink.