Skip to main content

Freire previews the Tour of Flanders

Image 1 of 17

The Tour of Flanders

The Tour of Flanders
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
Image 2 of 17

2001 Worlds: The thrill of victory for Oscar Freire (Spain) and the agony of defeat for silver medalist Paolo Bettini (Italy)

2001 Worlds: The thrill of victory for Oscar Freire (Spain) and the agony of defeat for silver medalist Paolo Bettini (Italy)
(Image credit: AFP)
Image 3 of 17

Spain's Oscar Freire was the surprise winner of the 1999 road world championship.

Spain's Oscar Freire was the surprise winner of the 1999 road world championship.
(Image credit: AFP)
Image 4 of 17

Choosing the smooth side over the cobbles is important in the Tour of Flanders

Choosing the smooth side over the cobbles is important in the Tour of Flanders
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
Image 5 of 17

No other race is as colourful as the Tour of Flanders

No other race is as colourful as the Tour of Flanders
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
Image 6 of 17

The fans get up close and personal on the Tour of Flanders course in 2004

The fans get up close and personal on the Tour of Flanders course in 2004
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
Image 7 of 17

Oscar Freire got a bloody nose from an incident in the 2004 Tour of Flanders

Oscar Freire got a bloody nose from an incident in the 2004 Tour of Flanders
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
Image 8 of 17

Being at the front on the climbs means you have a choice of paths

Being at the front on the climbs means you have a choice of paths
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
Image 9 of 17

The Kapelmuur cobbles proved decisive until the climb was removed

The Kapelmuur cobbles proved decisive until the climb was removed
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
Image 10 of 17

The rear end of the peloton in the 2002 Tour of Flanders

The rear end of the peloton in the 2002 Tour of Flanders
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
Image 11 of 17

In the Tour of Flanders it isn't a matter of if you will crash, but when

In the Tour of Flanders it isn't a matter of if you will crash, but when
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
Image 12 of 17

Position ahead of the climbs is important

Position ahead of the climbs is important
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
Image 13 of 17

The Tour of Flanders has everything, including echelons

The Tour of Flanders has everything, including echelons
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
Image 14 of 17

A bad positon on a cobbled climb could mean you're walking up it

A bad positon on a cobbled climb could mean you're walking up it
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
Image 15 of 17

The center of the cobbles is generally the best place to ride

The center of the cobbles is generally the best place to ride
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
Image 16 of 17

Philippe Gilbert shows he has the power to attack on the cobbles in 2009

Philippe Gilbert shows he has the power to attack on the cobbles in 2009
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
Image 17 of 17

A familiar face in the last decade: Freire winning, this time at the Tour of Romandie in 2009

A familiar face in the last decade: Freire winning, this time at the Tour of Romandie in 2009
(Image credit: Sirotti)

In the second of his exclusive analysis of the Classics for Cyclingnews, former three-time World Champion Oscar Freire explains why he thinks the Tour of Flanders is the most attractive race of the entire cycling calendar.

CN: How often did you race Flanders? Was it tricky to ride in Mapei [his second professional team] when you had a lot of Belgian riders who made it their top priority of the season?

I remember that once I was going really well, maybe in 2002, I was in very good shape for Flanders and I crashed out. But anyway, it was difficult [with Mapei] to get a spot in the Flanders line-up because I was more their rider for Milan-San Remo and they had other, much better riders for Flanders and Roubaix. I think Flanders was a race that suited me, but I lacked experience of racing it and a bit of luck, like in 2002. And apart from being in good condition, luck and experience are exactly the two ingredients you need the most to succeed there, and it’s up to you to get that experience and make that luck happen.

CN: From the moment you walk down to the start in Bruges, Flanders has an exceptional atmosphere.

CN: So do you have any particular favourites?

CN: Everybody emphasises the importance of getting a good position in Flanders. Do you agree? Does anything else on the technical side stand out that makes it a special race for the riders?

OF: It’s hard to say. The last time I raced, I did well and I made sure I was always in the top 10 or 15. However, there were times when everybody from the top ten backwards fell off and you realise that even though on paper it’s better to go in in first place than second when you go into the climbs, and better in second place than third, at some points it really doesn’t matter. You’re still going to crash...Ideally, you have to be in the top three every time you start a climb, because maybe from tenth rider back if a break goes it’s impossible to get back into contact.

Photo: Tim De Waele

CN: So the key to success in Flanders, rather than feeling exceptionally strong, is maybe to know how best to conserve the strength you have?

CN: So you need a good sports director as well who knows the route?

CN: After Flanders you then tended to skip Roubaix but go on to the Ardennes Classics. Did racing Flanders have a negative effect on how you raced in those hilly Classics?