After Amstel, Freire says he now believes he can win a fourth rainbow jersey
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Monday, April 16, 2012

After Amstel, Freire says he now believes he can win a fourth rainbow jersey

by VeloNation Press at 7:35 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, World Championships, Amstel Gold Race
 
Different location for worlds finish line could boost his chances

Oscar FreireHe may have been caught 100 metres from the line, suffering the disappointment of narrowly missing out on a victory he has been chasing for many years, but yesterday’s Amstel Gold Race showed Oscar Freire something important: that a fourth world title is possible in September.

The Katusha rider has two reasons for believing that. Firstly, yesterday’s near miss showed that he’s still a force, despite being 36 years of age. Secondly, the finish line comes after the top of the climb, similar to its location in 1998.

“I'm happy that the world championship finish is 1.8 kilometers further,” Freire told Het Nieuwsblad. “The lesson of this Amstel is that I can be world champion for a fourth time.”

If Freire was to pull off the victory, it would be a popular one for many. His plucky effort yesterday was applauded by many of those who watched the race, both for the nature of the attack and also due to a humble nature and clear race savvy seen during his career.

A fourth title would also be a record; Eddy Merckx, Alfredo Binda, Rik Van Steenbergen and Freire are the only riders who have taken three Elite rainbow jerseys. If the Spaniard can reach the finish line first, he’ll move clear with regards to that statistic.

This year has represented something of a new start for him, with his move from Rabobank to Katusha giving him a fresh beginning and a renewed motivation. That’s been seen in his results, but also too in the fact that he’s no longer speaking with absolute certainty about retiring next season.

If he takes the rainbow jersey, he’s confirmed that he’ll continue racing. It remains to be seen if only that prize will entice him to stay on, or if his general strong level this year is encouragement enough.

“I feel good and healthy,” he confirmed, talking about his new beginning. “In addition, at Katusha there is confidence in me so I can prepare in peace for my races.”

Thus far this season he’s clocked up several strong finishes; he landed stage wins in the Santos Tour Down Under and Vuelta a Andalucia, was second in both the E3 Harelbeke and Brabantse Pijl, fourth in yesterday’s Amsel Gold race and seventh in Milan Sanremo.

He’ll continue hunting for a Classic win in Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday and then next weekend’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège, while also saying that he’ll ride for Joaquim Rodriguez if necessary.

The next few days will determine if he can top the podium but, whatever happens, the peloton now knows that Freire can’t be written off, despite his age.

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