Freire leads Rabobank at Gent-Wevelgem
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Freire leads Rabobank at Gent-Wevelgem

by Neil Browne at 5:50 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics

Oscar FreireTeam Rabobank is lining up at this Sunday's Gent-Wevelgem with both of their sprinters: triple world champion Oscar Freire and Australian Graeme Brown. The Belgian race is known as the sprinter's classic due to its flat terrain, however the riders will have to climb the cobbled Kemmelberg twice, where a decisive split in the peloton often occurs.

In 2009, eventual winner Edvald Boasson Hagen attacked on the second ascent of the fabled climb and bridged up to Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas) to win the sprint. However, this year the Team Sky rider is suffering with an inflamed achilles' tendon and is unsure if he will have recovered enough to defend his title.

With his win in last Saturday's Milan-Sanremo, Freire will be the undisputed leader for the team. With four wins already this season, including a win at the Mallorca Challenge, two stages at the Ruta del Sol and his win in Italy, the three-time Milan-Sanremo winner has shown he is on good form. Freire has a solid history in the Belgian race, winning the 2008 edition and placing third the previous year.

Graeme Brown has yet to score his first victory of the season, but has come tantalizingly close. He was third in stage six of the Tour Down Under, and came in second on stages one, two and five of the Vuelta a Murcia. Perhaps this Sunday he'll have the opportunity to come out on top.

Backing up their sprinters will be a squad with a range of experience. Jos van Emden, Tom Leezer, Tom Stamsnijder, Rick Flens and Steven Kruijswijk have all ridden well so far this season. Dutch rider Flens had an exceptional ride in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and finished second on the day, while Sunday's race will be neo-pro Kruijswijk's first major race.  The team won't expect much from the young twenty-two year old.

One spot on Rabobank's Gent-Wevelgem squad is still open, and will be filled based on the team's performance at E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, which is contested the day before.


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