Freire looking forward to Amgen Tour of California

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) is looking forward to his participation in next month’s Amgen Tour of California, and the Spaniard has admitted that he enjoys the relaxed atmosphere that pervades at the race.

“I’m going to ride the Tour of California, which I really like,” Freire told El Pais. “It’s a very relaxing race, very nice to ride, with a lot of opportunities and it’s not too hard.”

Freire’s enthusiasm for the American race is not down to the route alone, however, and he pointed out that the spectators contributed to a very different ambience to racing in Europe.

“In California, there is a huge expectation that you don’t see at the European races,” he said. “That surprised me the first time I went over there, in 2008. Over there they don’t see cycling just as a sport, but as a spectacle. The problems that we have in Europe, all stories of doping, people don’t care about them there.

“The public admire you as a sportsman. When I rode over there for the first time, it was like finding the good old times in Europe, the lightness with which cycling was lived before. The ambience, the excitement…”

Freire went on to point out that he would like to see mentalities change in European cycling, and levelled vague criticism against the UCI’s promotion of the sport.

“Cyclists need to be promoted, and attention needs to be paid to them as sportsmen, and not just for their economic interest,” Freire said. “I would say that what counts is saving cycling’s image, but as long as the UCI doesn’t support riders, saving cycling in Europe will be very difficult.”

The three-time world champion recently revealed that he would not be riding the Tour de France, expressing his preference for the Classics, and he reiterated that stance when speaking to El Pais.

“I was questioned about the Classics, and I replied that July would be a much better and more exciting month if the Classics were held in place of the Tour,” Freire explained. “At the Tour, when you’ve done two mountain stages, you already know who is going to be at the front and what is going to happen afterwards.

“It’s more boring than at the Classics where you don’t know who is going to win until the final kilometres. There’s more suspense. You only have to look at how Paris-Roubaix, the Tour of Flanders and Milan-San Remo went this year.”

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