Three-time world road race champion Oscar Freire has revealed that he plans to retire when his current contract with Rabobank expires at the end of the 2010 season. Before that, the 33-year-old Spanish sprinter hopes to pick up a record fourth world title and has his sights set firmly on next month’s championships in Mendrisio, which will start just a few kilometres from his home in Switzerland.
In an interview with Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Freire admitted that winning a fourth title and surpassing the mark of three he currently shares with Eddy Merckx, Alfredo Binda and Rik Van Steenbergen is his primary goal before he retires. "That would be a perfect way to round off my career," said Freire. Asked if he’d thought seriously about retirement, Freire replied: "Yes I have. This is all coming to an end, next year I will be retiring. I feel that’s the right time. I’ll be at the end of my contract and it will be best to stop then. I’ve made a huge amount of sacrifices over the years and there is a limit to that."
Asked how he will look back on what will have been a 11-year career, Freire said rather modestly: "I’ve won a few things. Winning three world titles isn’t bad. Now I’ve reached the moment when I’m not dreaming about taking more stage wins. I’m satisfied with what I’ve achieved."
Freire’s attitude is reflected in his performances at the Vuelta, where he has rarely featured in bunch sprints. Asked if the new generation of sprinters was different to those he’d long competed against, the Spaniard responded: "There are no pure sprinters now, there are just fast riders who get involved in sprints and that makes the finishes more dangerous.
"People are taking a lot of risks and at my age I prefer not to get involved in battles like that. That was what happened on the [Vuelta’s] days in Holland and Belgium. In situations like that the most judicious path is not get involved and save your strength for another day."
A rider who has always tended to find his own path in sprints, Freire was dismissive of the achievements of sprinters set up by sprint trains. "With a team like that you sometimes win without even realising it because they leave you perfectly placed at 200 metres. It’s not the same as picking your way through without any assistance," he declared.
Freire denied his lack of results at the Vuelta had hit his confidence, insisting his focus is on the Mendrisio Worlds. "That’s my objective and that’s why I’m here at the Vuelta. If I win a stage somewhere that would be good, but it’s not my objective," he said. He also said he was not worried by his lack of results this season.
"What matters is how things look at the end. When I won the last Worlds in Verona [in 2004] most of that season had passed without much in the way of results. I’ve got confidence – the precedents are similar to those then."
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