Katusha have emerged as the most likely destination for three-time world champion Oscar Freire. The Spaniard’s manager, his brother Antonio, has admitted that he has been negotiating with new Katusha team boss Hans-Michael Holczer in Paris in recent days, although he added that he is still talking to other teams, including Lotto and Geox.
Speaking in Paris on Tuesday at the presentation of the 2012 Tour de France, Holczer revealed that his new team was close to agreeing a deal with “one of the most important riders.” Holczer refused to be drawn on the rider’s identity, commenting: “I cannot say his name. We hope to have a decision soon though.”
However, several reports in Spain suggest very strongly that the rider in question is Freire and that a deal will probably be completed between Antonio Freire and Holczer today (Wednesday). This would enable Oscar Freire’s name to be included on the Russian team’s roster that will be submitted to the UCI on October 20 as part of its ProTeam documentation.
According to the Spanish press, Freire has been prepared to lower his asking price in order to secure a deal with a team that is guaranteed to have a place in all of the WorldTour events. In what will almost certainly be his farewell season, the Spanish sprinter wants to be sure that he will be able to line up in Milan-San Remo, which he has already won three times, as well as the Tour de France. The veteran sprinter is also keen to appear at the London Olympics and next year’s World Championships in Valkenburg.
Signing Freire would also seem to suit Katusha, who have not produced the kind of success that the team’s big-money backers were expecting. As well as adding some WorldTour points to their pot, Freire would bring obvious experience and boost the potency of their Classics attack. He would also fit in neatly with the Russian team’s growing pack of Spanish riders that are already included Joaquim Rodríguez and Dani Moreno, and has been boosted this week by the arrival of Angel Vicioso and Xavier Florencio.