Spain regrets Freire's absence

World championships host nation Spain has always been a serious contender for the win in the men's...

World championships host nation Spain has always been a serious contender for the win in the men's road race, but this year national coach Francisco Antequera concedes that its chances are limited because of the absence of triple champion Oscar Freire and doubts over the form of 2003 world's runner-up Alejandro Valverde.

"With Oscar it would be easier because on a course with these characteristics he is faster than anyone and would have done well," Antequera told As. "The team that we have is not one for a mass finish, so we must look for another solution," he added.

What would suit Antequera and Spain is race that splits up, allowing his three team leaders, Valverde, Igor Astarloa and Juan Antonio Flecha a chance to escape. "In principle the three leaders of the team ... are going to have the same opportunities, but everything will depend on the type of race that unfolds. If everyone arrives together, Petacchi will take it easily."

Antequera said that Alejandro Valverde is "the great unknown quantity because we do not know his physical state. We will not know until the race. Alejandro has been training like never before and has done sessions of seven or eight hours of high intensity behind a car. If he turns up in good form he will be dangerous."

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