Freire faces record fourth world title

The odds on experienced Spaniard Oscar Freire adding another title to his three road world championships have shortened in recent days as the likes of former world champions Paolo Bettini and Mario Cipollini are tipping him as a favourite.

And the significance of that isn't lost on the 34-year-old Rabobank rider.

"The record must be in my legs not just in my head, although, in principle, I have the opportunity to enter history," Freire told Spanish news agency Europa Press after the team was presented in Madrid before heading to Australia for the world championships.

"I am the only one who can do it now. It would be disappointing if I didn't. I have had a great career as a cyclist and a fourth world championship would be no thorn. Winning three is important, but four is the best."

Freire was originally slated as one of the names to watch for the title when the course was announced, in addition to riders such as the Spaniard's old sparring partner, Robbie McEwen. Several months ago, however, the talk of a sprinter prevailing changed to that of the Ardennes Classics riders, such as Philippe Gilbert and reigning world champion Cadel Evans.

The three-time Milan-San Remo winner isn't getting carried away with talk of what type of rider the winner could be, preferring to focus on the course from his own perspective. "Some say it is very hard and others [say] that it will be easy. I must await the passage of the race to value and see how it goes. But what is certain is that it will not be easy," he explained.

Whilst he's feeling confident in his form now, Freire's preparation throughout 2010 hasn't been ideal; sinus problems that required surgery put a dampener on his Tour de France and Vuelta a España and he didn't perform to his potential in either. With that issue ironed out, he could focus on what he does best - winning.

"Although the Tour was not right due to sinusitis and at La Vuelta I wasn't quite right after the operation, I've achieved six wins and the Milan-San Remo, between them. I just hope to regain the level of the first part of the [2010] campaign," he added.

It wasn't that easy however, and Freire had to trust in his body's ability to recover from the hard effort of the Vuelta. "In La Vuelta I knew it would be difficult because of the heat and travel. I thought I would be better [than I was], but I couldn't [do it]. So when I retired after Cotobello, I rested for three days and my form came to me very well. Then I noticed it was much better," he said.

His preparation work isn't finished though, and Freire explained that there's last minute adjustments to make, including to a time zone far from that to which he's accustomed. "I've trained very well these past days and now, once you travel, it will take some special training because we have many more days ahead," he said.

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