Oscar Freire (Rabobank) has said that his form has been improving in the week leading up to Sunday’s world championships road race. The Spaniard has won the coveted rainbow jersey on three occasions and is aiming for a record fourth title in Geelong.
“I don’t know if I can win but I’m training well,” Freire told RMC.fr. “I’ve often come to big races without being on top form but every day I’m getting better. I rode the Vuelta without much training but I think I’m going well now.”
Freire had a fine spring campaign, which included a third victory at Milan-San Remo, but he struggled through the summer months. After a listless Tour de France, he underwent surgery on a sinus problem, but failed to make any significant impact at September’s Vuelta a España.
Such is Freire’s pedigree in the race, however, he has been touted as the danger man by Italian coach Paolo Bettini and he will lead what is a very strong Spanish team. He is also confident that the Geelong circuit will suit his characteristics.
“The route is tough but that’s been the case in many of the world championships that I’ve ridden and I’ve always done my bit,” he said. “It rarely comes down to a sprint at the Worlds and when it’s the case, there’s a small group of 20 to 30 riders. I hope to be able to control the race.”
Indeed, Freire admitted that such a finale would be his ideal race scenario but he is aware that the Italian and Belgian teams in particular will seek to make the race tough enough to eliminate the sprinters.
“If it comes down to a sprint, the Spanish team will work for me. If not we’ll have to ride differently,” Freire said. “It’s the strongest team we could have.”
Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d’Epargne) stand out as the two riders in the line-up who may have the freedom to contest the rainbow jersey should Freire’s own challenge falter.
Meanwhile, Freire agrees with the general consensus that places Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) as favourite, given the Belgian’s magnificent form in recent weeks.
“The favourite is Gilbert, he did a good Tour de France,” Freire said. “There are many riders who could attack and be dangerous but it all depends on the rhythm of the race.
“It’s clearly the most important race of the year. I think that I can feature, I can aim for the title and that in itself is important in my eyes. I hope that Sunday will be my day.”