Former world champion gives Cavendish perfect lead-out
The first bunch sprint in the Tour de France is often quite hectic, and that proved to be the case again this year for stage 2 from Visé to Tournai, Belgium. For an experienced man like Oscar Freire (Katusha), it was a little over the top. The 36-year-old Spaniard lost the wheel of eventual winner Mark Cavendish (Sky) and then lost ground in the final metres, eventually finishing 16th.
"At one moment, I was on the wheel of (Peter) Sagan, but everybody wants to be there. I was in the sprint in the beginning, but in the last moment I didn't have power enough to sprint. Today I tried, but I need to be better," Freire said.
In the build-up to the sprint, Freire waited a long time before moving to the front. Current world champion Cavendish knew the former triple world champion was the perfect man to follow in the chaos, as he stated during the post-race press conference. "In the last kilometre, I was on the wheel of Freire because he knows when to move up," Cavendish said.
A little later, Daryl Impey (Orica-Greenedge) rode next to the Freire-Cavendish duo to bring his sprinter Matthew Goss (Orica-Greenedge) to the front. Cavendish managed to sneak in behind Impey with Goss remaining on the world champion's wheel. Freire realized that he had to get onboard this train to make it to the very front, and he tangled with Goss for Cavendish's wheel. Right after the finish, the Spaniard was spotted in an argument with Goss.
"It's hard to keep your cool in these sprints as it's always risky. I don't know if they crashed, but it was a really dangerous sprint," Freire said. With age, some sprinters tend to avoid the risks more often. Tom Boonen is an example of this. "I think he's younger than me. If he's 36, for sure he'll be more scared," Freire said, laughing.
On Tuesday, the third stage of the Tour de France will lead the riders to Boulogne-sur-mer where four climbs will spice up the finale. This type of finish should be better suited to the characteristics of Freire although he wasn't confident that he could do something there. "Today was not the best sprint for me but maybe tomorrow. It's too early now. If I have better form, things will be much easier."