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Freire's men not concerned with eliminating sprinters
There was a relaxed atmosphere in the Spanish camp on the eve of the UCI World Championships road race in Copenhagen, with the experienced Juan Antonio Flecha explaining that Oscar Freire and his team are ready to deal with any scenario that arises in Copenhagen.
In the build-up to the race, swathes of column inches have been taken up by speculation over just how many riders will still be in contention in the final lap of one of the least exacting Worlds courses in recent years, but in Flecha's view, any such guess work is idle and even counter-productive.
"I don't know, I don't even think about it," Flecha told Cyclingnews at the team hotel on Saturday. "For me, if you think about how many riders there will be at the end, you are already worrying too much about it. It's not up to us. Oscar [Freire] is able to win whatever the conditions, however the race is at the end. We will adapt to whatever comes."
While the Italian and Belgian teams have hinted that they will look to reduce the peloton and shed the likes of Mark Cavendish before the finale, Flecha said that the Spanish team was not unduly concerned by the race's difficulty or otherwise.
"I think Oscar has showed that he is capable of winning bunch sprints of 200 riders and of winning alone. He can win in many different ways, so he is confident," Flecha said. "It's not that the race has to be one way, it's not that the race has to be hard to get rid of Cavendish or whoever. I think Oscar is able to win in many different ways and he will adapt to whatever comes at the end."
In spite of the embarrassment of riches at Spain's disposal over the past decade, Freire has consistently been the man chosen to lead the line at the Worlds. For Flecha, the logic is simple: "He has already won three world championships, and beyond that, I don't think there are too many riders on the start tomorrow who have his list of victories.
A recurring theme of Freire's greatest victories has been ability to fly under the radar in the weeks beforehand and although he was forced to abandon the Vuelta a España through illness, Flecha is confident that his leader has the legs to take a record fourth world title.
"You can't have any doubt that he's a great rider, and he's in great form for sure now. He hasn't shown it but he doesn't need to show it to come good at the world championships. That's Oscar Freire," Flecha said. "Probably for other riders, they really need to ride well beforehand to have this confidence to be able to perform well tomorrow but it's not the case for Oscar. He is always as relaxed as you've seen today, he's above everything 100 per cent confident."
The Spanish press conference took place ahead of coach José Luis De Santos' final team briefing, but Flecha envisaged that he his primary duty would be to stay close to Freire rather than to infiltrate breaks.
"We haven't talked about specific roles yet, but I think my role will be to stay with Oscar to try and protect him throughout the whole race," he said. "I'm not going to be moving or trying to get away in some breakaways, I'll be more in charge of taking care of Oscar."