Freire believes he can take a third Milan-Sanremo victory today
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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Freire believes he can take a third Milan-Sanremo victory today

by VeloNation Press at 8:25 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Milan-Sanremo
 

Of the riders in this year’s Milan-Sanremo, the one with the best finishing record is undoubtedly triple world champion Oscar Freire.

The Rabobank rider has won the race twice, in 2004 and 2007, as well as taking placings of third, fifth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth. And while he had a low-key last few weeks due to illness, he is feeling upbeat about his chances.

“I see myself in a position to win,” he said to As.com. “Another thing is that in this race, everything can change in a second. It all depends on me.”

His best stage placing was only 52nd in Tirreno-Adriatico, a race which he won and took three stages in back in 2005. However he nabbed three wins earlier this season and said that there was a logical reason why the Italian event didn’t go so well.

“I arrived after having the flu and almost without training. If it was not for Milan-San Remo, I would not have participated,” he said. “But I had to take risks [to get into shape]. I suffered quite a bit in the early days, but it went well. The goal was not to excel in the race, but to physically recover and regain form.”

Despite that low key ride, he knows that he will be closely watched anyway. “Cyclists know those who are good. I cannot fool anyone. Recently we made a group picture of all who won in San Remo and the only one who won twice was me. That also counts for something.”

As evidenced by his world championship victories in Verona, Freire’s strengths are such that he can perform well on tough courses, being a more complete rider than many sprinters. Climbing well and having a strong finishing kick are requirements for success in Milan-Sanremo – and particularly so when the race is ridden aggressively by the peloton – and so if he is on form, he will have a better chance than many of the pure fast-men.

He’s clear on how he thinks the race will play out, and what he needs to happen. “This year, I don’t see anyone capable of going clear from the Cipressa or the Poggio,” he said, ruling out a successful long-distance attack. “I need to arrive well placed in the finishing straight and without problems to start [the sprint]. I don’t like the new finish, it is easier to be blocked in.”

Like Robbie McEwen, Freire is a rider who doesn’t rely on a strong leadout train. He’s got incredible bike handling skills and can generally manoeuvre himself into the right position to launch his sprint. He’s an explosive rider with a quick acceleration rather than someone who goes from a long way out and holds on, and points out two sprinters of the latter mould as his biggest rivals.

“Boonen and Petacchi,” he said, when asked who he would be most worried about. “And, as a team, Liquigas. But I don’t see their sprinter Bennati as a winner.”

He also doesn’t believe that Mark Cavendish can repeat this year. “He is not good,” he said, speaking about the HTC Columbia rider’s form. “I don’t think that he will hold on on the climbs. But then again, even last year he was unexpected.”

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