Oscar Freire (Katusha) may be lining up in pursuit of a fourth Milan-San Remo title on Saturday, but in the build-up to La Classicissima, his home media seemed more concerned with canvassing his opinion on the suspended Alberto Contador.
As sharp off the bike as he is canny on it, Freire noted that Contador’s two-year suspension for his positive test for Clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France was in keeping with the rules as they stand.
“The sanction isn’t just, but these are the rules that we have in cycling and nobody has said or done anything to change them,” Freire told Marca. “If you want to compete here, you have to accept them.”
Freire refused to be drawn either way on the thorny issue of Contador’s level of culpability in the matter. “Is he innocent? Maybe yes or maybe no,” Freire said. “Very few of those who test positive accept their guilt. It could be a question of food contamination…”
While Contador is sidelined until August following last month’s Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling, another Spanish rider has enjoyed a winning return from suspension, Alejandro Valverde. Freire is an admirer of the Movistar rider, who has captured four wins since his ban for his links to Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes expired in January.
“I prefer Valverde to Contador. If you come to a sprint with Contador, you know you can win. Not with Valverde,” he said.
Freire leads a solid Katusha line-up at Saturday's Milan-San Remo, where he has an opportunity to take his fourth win, and match the feat of his directeur sportif, Erik Zabel. Indeed, Zabel lost the chance to take a fifth win in 2004, when he celebrated too soon and Freire nipped him at the finish.
Katusha for Milan-San Remo: Xavier Florencio, Oscar Freire, Vladimir Gusev, Alexander Kristoff, Luca Paolini, Simon Spilak, Angel Vicioso, and Eduard Vorganov