As they attempt to boost their ranking status with the aim of gaining automatic entry to all of the major events on the calendar next season, Geox-TMC is negotiating with Vuelta winner Juan José Cobo and three-time world champion Oscar Freire. Both riders have received offers from other squads, but the Geox team management are hoping that they may be able to seal deals with both Spanish riders, having had some budget freed up following the retirement of Carlos Sastre.
Vuelta champion Cobo has spent all but one season with the set-up run by Geox team manager Mauro Gianetti, and reports in Spain suggest that he is keen to stick with his current outfit and reject offers he's received from three other top-level teams. One Spanish paper describes an offer Cobo has reportedly received from Astana, another team struggling to accumulate ranking points, as "un-turndownable", but Geox are hoping Cobo can be tempted into rejecting it.
"It's clear that Juanjo is the rider that we're most interesting in re-signing," Geox DS Joxean Fernández Matxin told El Diario Vasco. "He's told us that all being equal and even if there is a little bit less money on the table he will stay here, but we will have to see how much a little less equates to. His victory at the Vuelta has raised his price considerably. But on a personal level it's clear that he wants to stay with us."
It is rumoured that Geox picked up Cobo on a very low deal at the end of last season, when he failed to produce any results at all for Caisse d'Epargne. However, Matxin said that "in spite of what has been said in some places, the contract that he had with us is not so low, and in any case it was a contract befitting a rider who, because of a variety of problems, had had a year with hardly any racing or even training."
Matxin also confirmed that Gianetti has been negotiating with Freire's brother and manager, Antonio. "Mauro is dealing with that issue himself. I know that they have been talking, but I can't confirm whether Mauro has made an offer," said Matxin.
"He is certainly a rider who interests us. And of course he's going to interest us! Everyone knows that I've always had a liking for Freire. By signing him we would be taking on a great rider and in addition we would be getting some points. For us the most important thing is to be in the WorldTour and to do this we need to have riders with points. I think that we will have them but for the moment we have to wait," said Matxin, who added that the team have a year left on their deal with Geox, two with TMC and one with bike supplier Fuji.
Freire's "home" newspaper, Cantabria's El Diario Montañes, suggests that Freire is most likely to ride with Rabobank for one more year before retiring. However, it reports that the Spaniard's relationship with the Dutch team is not as good as it had been following their signing of Mark Renshaw and what Freire perceives as their lack of support for him in certain races this season. Freire was linked with a move to Movistar prior to the Worlds, but the offer he received was "insufficient".
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).