Rabobank rider Oscar Freire has pulled out of the Tour of Spain because of a neck injury. Australian under-23 national champion Will Walker make his debut in a grand tour when he takes Freire's place in the Rabobank squad.
Three-time world champion Freire, who won two stages of this year's Tour de France, said that he had decided to withdraw because the injury would prevent him from competing at the desired level in the three week race. Intensifying his training in preparation to the Tour of Spain has aggravated the injury. He will now undergo extensive neurological examinations.
Earlier this week, Freire had indicated that he would be on the start line in Malaga on Saturday for his national tour. However, that hope has been scuppered by the injury. "It's a problem I've had since the Tour de France and the pains I get make me feel dizzy," Freire told Radio Marca. "I thought I might be able to make it in time but it is now clear that I won't."
Freire said that he hoped to recover in time to challenge for a record fourth road race world crown in Salzburg in September. He withdrew from last year's championships in Madrid because of a back injury. "I hope I will make it although I don't think I will be as well prepared as I had hoped," he said. "Still, if I don't win this year there will be other opportunities in the future."