Oscar Freire (Katusha) has confirmed that 2012 will be his final season as a professional rider. The Spaniard had previously hinted that he would bring the curtain down on his career last year, but ultimately opted to stay in the peloton and swapped Rabobank for Katusha during the off-season.
“This time, it will be my final professional season,” Freire told Velochrono. “I really thought for some time that I would stop after the 2011 season but in the end I changed my mind.”
The reason for Freire’s change of heart was a simple one – a year shy of the London 2012 Olympics, the Spaniard was unable to resist the possibility of finishing on a high by adding one final title to a glittering palmares, which already includes three rainbow jerseys.
“It was simply because 2012 is an Olympic year and I hope to be able to shine in London. Beyond that, I didn’t really want to end my career on a bad note, and my 2011 season didn’t really give me a lot of satisfaction. So I’m hoping to end my career in 2012 with a good sense of accomplishment.”
On paper, the London 2012 circuit appears well-tailored to the sprinters, although the combination of its 250km length and five-man teams might yet preclude a bunch finish.
“I haven’t analysed the circuit closely yet, but I’ve heard it said that it might suit me,” Freire said. “It’s going to be a very special race because it’s all on the day, and there’s a maximum of only five riders per country. It won’t be too easy to control the race.”
Outside of the Olympic Games, Freire is pursuing a fourth victory at Milan-San Remo in 2012 and he plans to return to the Tour de France, after being sidelined by Rabobank last year. The Spaniard also hopes to be a factor at Amstel Gold Race, where he finished 6th last season.
“I’m thinking especially of races like the Tour of Flanders or Amstel Gold Race,” he said. “Now, if you come across a Philippe Gilbert as strong as he was last year, then what can you do? But why not [try to win] Amstel Gold Race all the same? That could be an objective.”
Freire begins his season at the Santos Tour Down Under, and then returns to Europe to continue his build-up to Milan-San Remo by riding the Ruta del Sol, Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico.
Racing in Australia marks a change from Freire’s traditional start at the Challenge Mallorca. “To be honest it was more the team who insisted that I ride the Tour Down Under, but I wasn’t really against it either,” he said. “It’s a very important race since it’s in the WorldTour and I’ve heard a lot of good things about this event.
“I have to admit that it’s nice to be able to ride in these weather conditions in January – starting 2012 under the Australian sun and with a new team can only motivate me.”