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Freire confirms he will retire at end of 2012

Veteran Spanish sprinter Óscar Freire confirmed that 2012 will be his final season among the pro ranks.

The three-time world champion is debuting his season this week at the Tour Down Under with Katusha. The Russian outfit picked him up after racing nine seasons with Rabobank.

The Dutch team signed Mark Renshaw as its new leader sprinter, leaving Freire looking for a job in what he now says will be his final year in the peloton.

“This is my last season,” Freire said in Australia. “I hope to be a little better and have better luck (than last year).”

Freire, who turns 36 next month, says he hopes to enjoy an injury-free season in what will be his last chance of trying to win a record fourth world title.

A challenging world’s route in Holland’s Valkenburg region gives Freire hope in what will also be an Olympic year with a sprint-friendly course in London.

“Last year wasn’t especially good for me,” said Freire, who completed only two stages at the Ruta del Sol last year. “I didn’t race the Tour and I was sick during the Vuelta. I had good condition, but I simply didn’t have the opportunities that I wanted.”

Freire’s first season goals will be Tirreno-Adriatico, which he won in 2005, and Milan-San Remo, which he’s won three times (2004, 2007 and 2010).

He will be hoping to earn a spot on Katusha’s Tour team and race the Olympic Games, though it will not be easy to earn one of Spain’s five starting slots for the London road race.

Spanish coaches have already said that Alejandro Valverde and defending Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez will be assured starting positions for the Olympics.

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