Oscar Freire has revealed that he turned down the opportunity to ride for Euskaltel-Euskadi in 2013 and then continue in a management role at the Basque squad. Freire retired from cycling at the end of this season and the world championships in Valkenburg was his final race.
“Igor [Gonzalez de Galdeano] offered me the chance to do another year as a rider and then to carry on as a directeur sportif afterwards, but I had already decided to retire unless I became world champion again,” Freire told Marca.
“From the beginning of the year, I said that it was my intention to retire at the end of this season. My team Katusha asked me a lot of times over the year if I wanted to continue, but I was clear that I didn’t want to race anymore.”
At the age of 36, and with three world titles and three victories at Milan-San Remo on his palmares, Freire said that he did not have the necessary motivation to continue at the highest level, even though he posted a number of impressive results in 2013 and came close to Classics victories at both E3 Harelbeke and Amstel Gold Race. “I had already achieved a lot of my goals and I knew that I couldn’t reach the other ones,” said Freire.
Asked if cycling’s damaged reputation had impacted on his decision, Freire said: “Everything is relative, even if, in recent years, although Spanish and winning races, they’ve left me in peace and I haven’t done as many controls.
“Spanish riders have had a bad reputation, but sometimes with good reason because there have been too many positives. But it’s also true that cycling has improved greatly in recent years.”
After riding for Vitalicio Seguros and Mapei, Freire spent nine seasons at Rabobank. The Dutch bank announced on Friday that it was pulling out of the sport after 17 years in the peloton.
“They were great seasons, but in the end I left disappointed. I had to leave the team and I still don’t know the reason. But then I understood that I needed a change of scene,” Freire said.
Freire’s final race as a professional rider was the world championships and he left Valkenburg bitterly disappointed after Alejandro Valverde broke from the Spanish team’s agreed tactics on the final climb up the Cauberg. A month on, however, Freire has come to terms with missing out on a fourth rainbow jersey.
“We did very well until the finale but in the end there wasn’t a lot of understanding,” he said. “We got a good result because a medal is important, but it wasn’t what we had decided in the team meeting, so I went away with a bit of sadness.
“It’s not possible to go back, but I’m comforted to know that Gilbert was unstoppable, and that I wouldn’t have taken the rainbow jersey that day.”