Freire getting greener, with a little help from 'Cav'
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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Freire getting greener, with a little help from 'Cav'

by Agence France-Presse at 4:07 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
Spaniard Oscar Freire should now have a better idea of whether he can keep the Tour de France green jersey, after some in-race consultation with sprint rival Mark Cavendish.

Cavendish, the winner of four sprint stages so far, was conspicuous by his absence on Saturday as Freire claimed his first win of this year's race from yet another bunch sprint at the end of the 194km 14th stage.

The win allowed the 32-year-old Freire, one of the few sprinters to emerge from a country where cycling fans usually only follow the yellow jersey, to add 35 points to his lead in the green jersey competition.

He now has a total of 219, with Norway's 2006 winner Thor Hushovd on 172, with Cavendish in fourth on 156 just behind Germany's six-time winner Erik Zabel, on 167.

Freire came into this year's Tour aiming principally for stage wins. But having taken the green jersey last week it has given ideas to the former three-time world champion.

Cavendish will remain a real rival for Freire if he makes it through the three, tough mountain stages that are spread over the next four days.

However Cavendish's efforts took their toll on Saturday, when he failed to get involved with the bunch sprint.

But before the peloton even starts heading upwards, Freire has already tried to pull a move on the 23-year-old Manxman. "I've got a bit more of a hold on the green jersey, so I hope to keep it till Paris," he said. "But still, I spoke to Mark Cavendish to find out whether he was going to make it over the Alps okay. I was glad to see that he was struggling to make it over the final climb today."

On only his second participation on the race Cavendish joined the ranks of the sprint greats by becoming only the fourth sprinter in the last 10 years to claim four stage wins in a single edition.

But like many fast men, the Manxman struggles on the climbs. Cavendish's bid to make history in the race came unstuck when he started trailing on a small climb 10km from the finish. It proved decisive for the more agile Freire, whose fourth stage win in a hugely successful but injury-plagued career has put the smiles back on Rabobank's faces.

As far as cycling fans in Spain are concerned, however, Freire admits he's at a loss. "It really doesn't matter to people in Spain whether I win the green jersey or not," added Freire, a former two-time winner of the Milan-San Remo one-day classic. "In my country, it's football, football, football. And when people watch cycling, it's to see who is going to win the race leader's yellow jersey."

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