Oscar Freire's poor judgement in the sprint cost the Spaniard a shot at a medal in the road race at the UCI Road World Championships on Sunday. The three-time world champion misjudged the finale, finding himself in second position as the bunch made its way out of the final corner with roughly 500 meters to go.
Too near the front, too soon, the Spaniard eased up just before the road began to kick up towards the line. Although it meant he was sheltered from the wind it cost him vital speed and momentum. As contender after contender sped past, Freire was forced to accelerate again. It was an uncharacteristic mistake from a rider who has consistently proven himself as one of the most astute in the professional peloton.
"I was in the front and in second position, and I thought that it was too early to start sprinting. So I waited and the others were coming from behind really fast," he told Cyclingnews as he made his way to the Spanish team bus.
"I expected to do better but it simply wasn't possible. I made an error in the sprint. My legs were good that's the frustrating thing."
Freire's error spoilt what had been building into a strong Spanish performance in the race. The team placed Pablo Lastras in the early move, allowing their big guns to rest in the safety of the bunch.
Lastras was a passenger in the break that included Anthony Roux (France), Christian Poos (Luxembourg), Maxim Iglinskiy (Kazakhstan), Oleg Chuzhda (Ukraine), Robert Kiserlovski (Croatia) and Tanel Kangert (Estonia).
The Spaniard came to life once a counterattack formed. The result of which ensured that the other sprinters's teams, including Great Britain - worked while the Spanish waited in the wings.
However Freire's most important help should have been in the form of Jose Joaquin Rojas, his designated leadout man. For a reason unknown to Freire Rojas went missing in the closing kilometres leaving him to fend for himself.
"We made a really good race from the beginning, but in the final I expected Rojas to be with me at the front," Freire said.
"When you stop, you can't do anything. Maybe if it would have been 100 meters more I could have done something."
Friere, like last year in Geelong, where he was in contention but started his sprint from too far back, was again left wondering what might have been.
"I could have won this year's world championships. I was in great shape, and I was feeling strong for the final. I should have been third or fourth back but instead the guys who were accelerating behind me could get past me no problem."