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Freire back for Challenge Mallorca

Oscar Freire winning the 2004 world championships

Oscar Freire winning the 2004 world championships (Image credit: AFP)

By Les Clarke

After a disastrous 2005 that saw him miss most of the season through injury, three-time world champion Oscar Freire will be making his long-awaited comeback in several days at the Challenge Mallorca (February 5). Rabobank's champion sprinter started 2005 with wins at the Challenge Illes Balears and Tirreno-Adriatico in February and March before he was forced off the bike following surgery for complications around the saddle area, the sensitive nature of the injury ensuring his layoff from racing was long.

Freire, whose exploits in one day, shorter stage and world championship races have made him one of the peloton's most feared sprinters, wants to erase the memory of 2005 by enjoying a strong 2006, and according to Rabobank spokesman Jacob Bergsma, "Oscar has left the troubled 2005 season far behind and is looking for new horizons." If the Spaniard's early season form is good, which can be expected, look out for his super finishes in races such as Tirreno-Adriatico (March 8-14)and Milan-San Remo (March 18), which he won in 2004 after Erik Zabel's infamous early victory celebration.

But before then Freire will ride one or more of the Challenge Mallorca series of races ahead of the Vuelta a Andalucia (Ruta del Sol, February 12-16) before targeting the spring classics, where he'll surely be among the contenders. Freire usually races frequently during the spring period, including the big classics and many of the smaller semi-classics. Following a break during the Giro d'Italia (May 6-28), Rabobank aims to have their man riding the Tour de France before late September calls and win number four beckons at the world championships in Austria (September 24).

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