Freire says headwind blighted his chances of winning Amstel Gold Race
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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Freire says headwind blighted his chances of winning Amstel Gold Race

by VeloNation Press at 1:18 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Amstel Gold Race
Spaniard goes close to sensational Classic victory

Oscar FreireLaunching a well timed but opportunistic attack with seven kilometres to go, hitting the final climb of the Cauberg with a slight lead over a hard-chasing group of race favourites, Oscar Freire narrowly missed out on what would have been a superb victory in today’s Amstel Gold Race.

The triple world road race champion gritted his teeth on the final slopes, willing his tiring body upwards and fighting the bike all the way to the line. He was however hauled back inside the final 90 metres by eventually winner Enrico Gasparotto (Astana), who came off Liquigas Cannondale rider Peter Sagan’s wheel and held off Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol) to snag the win.

Freire held on to take fourth, the Spaniard finishing just ahead of Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and last year’s winner, Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team).

The Dutch classic is one that Freire has been trying to win for a long time, and he went painfully close to doing that today.

“It’s a pity…in the end I thought I could win but they passed me with just 100 metres to go. I felt I was in shape, so I did a good attack but it wasn’t enough,” he said. “ The last climb was too hard and my legs were not at their best after this long race, and with my solo attack with several uphill sections plus a strong headwind.”

Freire is regarded as one of the most astute riders in the peloton, being famously absent minded off the bike but incredibly focused on it. He perhaps made one mistake today; once clear, he looked back at least ten times, if not more, rotating his body to peer over his shoulder.

Given that he lost the race by two seconds, it can be argued that he would have had a better chance of he had kept his head down rather than checking behind.

It’s still a fine showing from the veteran rider, who will attempt to win what would be a record fourth world championship title on some of these same roads on September 23rd.

With several more explosive riders in the group, he believes that he did things correctly to try to win. “I think I followed the right strategy because it was very difficult to control the race. Also, when you feel in good condition, you need to try these kind of actions.”

Prior to the race, he said that he would most likely ride for the Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez, who is better suited to steep uphill finishes. As directeur sportif Valerio Piva explained, the team’s plans changed when it became clear that the older rider was feeling better towards the finale.

“We have a strong team, which can change strategy depending on the shape of our riders and on the race,” he said. “This time, Freire felt in a good shape. Rodriguez was suffering a little because he was not in his greatest day, so that’s why Oscar attacked.

“Only great champions can do these kind of attacks and win or go really close to win: he did seven kilometres with headwind and he was passed with just 100 metres to go. Maybe if Gilbert didn’t pull full gas like he did, then he could have arrived by himself. So I think we did a nice performance. That’s also because the team pulled the group almost from the beginning to the end.”

Rodriguez said that the weather conditions got to him, with the cold weather affecting him more than he had expected. He explained that once he realized that he couldn’t win, he told Freire to play his own card.

Realising how close his team-mate was to taking the win, he was praising in his assessment. “I’m sorry for him: in the end I think he deserved the victory, because he was great,” he said.

He knows that there will be other chances, though. “Today we couldn’t win, but now there is Fleche-Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. We still have the chance to take a good result.”

Freire has said that this season is likely his last; he also went close to a Classic victory in Milan-Sanremo, where he was seventh, and is still very capable of pulling off a big victory.

Today was a disappointment, but he’ll return to these same roads in five months time determined to conquer the roads. If he pulls that off, today’s result will make his fourth rainbow jersey all the more sweet.


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