Three-time World champion Oscar Freire of Spain is just hours away from what could be his last ever professional bike race, and it is appropriate that he should ride his final World championships at Valkenburg, where he rode his first World’s way back in 1998.
“I wasn’t under any pressure, though, I was young and I didn’t care about anything. There were ten of us Spanish, a bigger team than you have now. But I’d taken silver in the World Amateur Championships the year before (in San Sebastian) - I think that could have been a better result if I hadn’t punctured - and I knew then that World championships was going to be my thing.”
A series of real near-misses (and two wins this year), including fourth in the Amstel Gold Race, just a stone’s throw away from the finish on Sunday, fourth in Ghent-Wevelgem, third in the recent Paris-Brussels, seventh in Milan-San Remo and twelfth in Flanders, are results any rider would be proud of.
Winning comes down to small details
Freire says that the course itself “is one of the best for me in the last few Worlds. However, we don’t race with the same mentality that we did when I won the Worlds” - as he did in 1999, 2001 and 2004. I was the sole leader and all that matters a lot. Now there are more leaders (in the Spanish team) and the difference between winning and not winning comes down to small details which can matter a lot in a race, little errors that can make all the difference.”
Freire, has won seven Tour stage, a Tour points jersey, Milan-San Remo three times as well as wins in the Hew Cyclassics, Ghent-Wevelgem, Fleche Brabanconne and seven stages at the Vuelta a España.