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Freire to debut with Katusha at Tour Down Under

Team Katusha will unveil their new star signing, Oscar Freire, at the Santos Tour Down Under in January, with the race organisation including the Spaniard in the team's list for the opening WorldTour event.

It will be Freire's first participation in the six stage event, after previously coming to Australia for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, and last year's World Championships in Geelong.

"Freire has accomplished what only legends like Alfredo Binda, Eddy Merckx and Rik Van Steenbergen have been able to do: win three World Championships [1999, 2001, 2004]," said Tour Down Under organiser Mike Turtur.

"He is one of the most impressive riders of the last decade and it will be really exciting for fans to see him take to the start line and for him to bring his competitive edge to the race."

With Freire's abilities in the sprints and his penchant for thriving on the more selective days, the uphill finish on Old Willunga Hill on stage 5 could be right up the Spaniard's alley.

The team is not without its options however, with Xavier Florencio, recently returned to the WorldTour after a year with Geox-TMC, and fast improving Latvian Gatis Smukulis (from HTC-Highroad) both in attendance.

The race will also act as the first test for new team manager Hans-Michael Holczer, who has promised a new direction for the squad in 2012. Holczer has already instituted major staff and rider turnover.

Katusha for the Tour Down Under: Maxim Belkov (Rus), Giampaolo Caruso (Ita), Xavier Florencio (Spa), Oscar Freire (Spa), Luca Paolini (Ita), Gatis Smukulis (Lat) and Eduard Vorganov (Rus)

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