Oscar Freire told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 14 of the Vuelta a España that he was doing his last stage before pulling out. “As I didn’t come to the Vuelta with great shape, I need one week of recovery before I train again for the world championships,” said the triple world champion.
Rabobank’s directeur sportif Adri van Houwelingen was more vague about the exact day of his retirement. “Oscar will stop one of these three days,” the Dutchman said. “He wants to go to Australia on Wednesday for ten days. He reckons the training he’ll do there will be better than what he’d do at the Vuelta. We’ve given him the green light to prepare for the world championship as he wants.”
Freire was absent from the fight for the win in the sprints of the Vuelta until he finished sixth in Lleida on stage 12. “My condition is getting better,” the Spaniard noted. “But it’s not yet what I need for winning. I was feeling pretty bad at the start of the Vuelta because I hadn’t done great work before. I’ve raced a lot. The operation has stopped me for a while and I couldn’t expect miracles in such a hard Vuelta.”
In the early plans for his 2010 season, Freire was supposed to start the Giro d’Italia for the first time at the age of 34. His Dutch sponsor Rabobank expected him to shine in the first few stages in the Netherlands but allergies forced him to withdraw and he was replaced by his young team-mate Steven Kruijswijk, who ended up as one of the revelations of the pink race (18th overall).
Freire has done the Tour of Belgium, the Tour de Suisse and the Tour de France but hasn’t won since stage 2 of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. His best results at the Tour de France were 5th in the last two bunch sprints in Bordeaux and Paris. In the Pyrénées, he suffered from the cold and rain and could hardly breathe. That led him to have a nose operation on July 30.
“The coming stages of the Vuelta aren’t suitable for me,” he said. “I’ll do better work in training rather than trying to follow the rhythm of the race.” Stage 14 actually took him close to his hometown of Torrelavega.
Having suffered on Spanish roads doesn’t change anything in his ambitions to become the world champion for the fourth time after Verona 1999 and 2004 and Lisbon 2001. “I’m hopeful”, he said. “My confidence isn’t lost. I know that the circuit in Geelong isn’t easy. Usually at the Worlds, the number of kilometres makes the race hard anyway. Everyone says the course is good for me.”
Should he win in Geelong on October 3rd, Freire would become the first cyclist to take the rainbow jersey four times.