By Shane Stokes in Ambri
Oscar Freire gave himself a nice boost as regards his discussions for a new contract when he won stage 7 of the Tour de Suisse in Ascona yesterday. The triple world champion jumped away from three breakaway companions close to the line and held off the fast-closing main bunch by three seconds. Although he has taken a handful of wins this year, this triumph confirms that he is finally close to full fitness after a difficult 2005 blighted by a bad cyst.
"This is not my first victory of the year but my fifth," the happy Spaniard told the press yesterday evening. "It is always hard to come back after a difficult year. I feel I am in very good shape now and I feel ready for the Tour de France. This is obviously an important victory for me."
Freire was seen having talks with Salvatore Commesso, the Lampre rider annoying his breakaway companions by sitting on the move. "Yes, the discussion was animated," he agreed.
"Commesso got instructions not to contribute. After 200 kilometres of working together we were all disrupted by that, so I tried to get him to do his share. Otherwise we were going to be caught."
July is a big target for Freire, after disappointments in France in the past. "I have done two Tours in my career. The first time, I was going very well but unfortunately I crashed in the first week and had to retire. The second time, I wasn't going well at all. But I hope the third time will be a good one. If I can win a stage it will be great. I will go for the green jersey too, if it works out that way."
Should he succeed in either of those goals, it will help him get the best possible deal for 2007. "My contract is up this year," he stated. "For now I am trying to focus on all the big races. There are discussions with several teams but my decision will depend on the talks with my current team. I would love to stay here [with Rabobank] though, if it works out that way."