Freire: Worlds course is easier than I expected

Three-time world champion picks Hushovd, Gilbert and Sagan as favourites for Copenhagen

Three-time world champion Oscar Freire has revealed that the Copenhagen course for next month's World Championships is easier than he had been expecting it to be. The Spaniard competed on the course during last week's Tour of Denmark, and has told AS that only if it rains will the Worlds be a tough race.

"When I saw the course during the Tour of Denmark it was easier than I expected. There's just one drag that's 600-700 metres long, which runs up to the finish line," said Freire. "Only if it rains will it be a tough race. But perhaps that might turn out for the better because given the way that [Philippe] Gilbert is riding at the moment if it was a demanding circuit there would only be one winner."

Asked who he sees as the favourites for the title, the Spaniard picked out, "[Thor] Hushovd, Gilbert and [Peter] Sagan. Those three are the ones best suited to this circuit."

Freire won his last world title back in 2004 and still remains on the threshold of what would be a record-breaking fourth triumph. Although he's not sure of his form going into the Vuelta a España later this week, he believes it's better than it has been for some time and that he can contend in Copenhagen.

"I think I've got a chance. The fact that the final sprint is hard will suit me. And, although the course is easy, it is 280km long, plus 20km that are neutralized. With 300km in your legs it's not going to be an easy sprint for anybody."

Before the Worlds, though, the 35-year-old Spaniard is looking to complete the Vuelta for the first time in his career and take a stage win along the way. Asked whether Mark Cavendish's presence in the Vuelta field will be good or bad for him, Freire responded: "Bad. It's not just Cavendish. He's got a team of riders who specialize in controlling the sprints and to carry him to a point 150-200 metres from the line. If he comes with a line-up like he had at the Tour, it is going to be very difficult to win a stage."

Freire also picked out Tyler Farrar, Alessandro Petacchi, Tom Boonen and Peter Sagan as his main rivals in Spain, plus Skil-Shimano's Marcel Kittel - "the new guy who won four stages in Poland. It's his first year as a pro and his team is not that strong, so he must have something about him," said Freire.

The Spaniard said recently that he will ride for one more year and will decide which team he will be with prior to the Vuelta's start next Saturday. In the AS interview, he said: "The one sure thing is that I won't have a problem finding a team. I would like to stay with Rabobank. I've spent a lot of time with them."

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