By Gregor Brown in Castelfidardo, Italy
Spaniard Oscar Freire (Rabobank) can take away confidence from the 43rd Tirreno-Adriatico, having won two stages in Italy. The 32 year-old won Stage 1 and Stage 6 of the race and is now considered the number one favourite to win Saturday's Milano-Sanremo, a race he has won twice before.
"For sure those who are up here in Tirreno will be up there in Sanremo," said Freire after his stage win over Italy's Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) and Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) in Castelfidardo (Le Marche).
Freire will bide his time on the 298-kilometre day in hopes the race will evolve into a sprint finale. The Spaniard's biggest competitor in the sprint is Alessandro Petacchi (Team Milram).
"I am not sure exactly how strong Petacchi is going even though he won the other day," Freire continued, referring to the Italian's victory in Tirreno-Adriatico.
The 32 year-old is more concerned with the host of riders who have the ability to attack and destroy the possibility of a Sanremo sprint, than he is of sprinting against Petacchi. "Cancellara has really impressed me," admitted Freire. "He is always taking a good position and has a good pedalling action. He really took this Tirreno, he won the crono and then the overall.
"I know there are a lot of other riders who are going well on the climbs, and they can make a difference in Milano-Sanremo," he added. "This year, we will have to give a lot of attention to the Cipressa and Poggio. And, the addition of the new climb [Le Mànie], could change the race."
The three-time World Champion underlined that he will stick out any attacks for the possibility of a sprint. "My objective won't be to go on the Poggio, but to stay there with the others for the sprint." Freire won the race last year and also in 2004. "It is as simple as staying there, and then trying when we get close to the finish.
"If you attack, to try to win, you never know if it is going to work," he explained. "That year that [Paolo] Bettini went [2003 - ed.], I thought it would come back together, but instead his move worked. Usually, in the last years, we have always arrived in a sprint."
Due to the Easter weekend and road construction, the race will not finish on its usual Via Roma percorso, but closer to the seaside. The finale of the Poggio will be some three kilometres longer, "but there are a couple of more curves that make a sprint harder to happen".
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