Vuelta a Espana

Óscar Freire abandons 2010 Vuelta, looks towards a fourth rainbow jersey

The three-time world champ wants a record-setting fourth rainbow jersey.

Óscar Freire (Rabobank) didn’t want anything to do with two hard stages in the mountains of Asturias and pulled out of the Vuelta a España ahead of Sunday’s start in Solares. The fact that he was just down the road from his hometown of Torrelavega might have made that decision even easier.

The three-time world champion says he’ll be ready for a run at a record fourth rainbow jersey in three weeks’ time in Australia, despite complications from nose surgery in late July to ease breathing problems.

“The Vuelta is the best way to get ready for the worlds,” Freire told VeloNews before he abandoned. “I started the Vuelta in not a very good condition. I was operated on one month ago and hoped to prepare for the worlds.”

Freire plans to travel to Australia some 10 days before the world championships to familiarize himself with the course and become acclimated to the time difference and weather. Spanish officials have already assured that Freire will be the team’s first leader.

Freire, 34, has won three world titles. The first came as a surprise in 1999 as an unknown, he confirmed that victory in 2001 and won the treble in 2004.

“I think there’s a good chance. To have the opportunity to be the fourth time a world champion is also nice,” he continued. “To have the chance is very nice.”

Four riders have won three world titles. Including Freire, the others are Alfredo Binda (1927, ’30, ’32); Rik Van Steenbergen (’49, ’56, ’57); and Eddy Merckx (’67, ’71, ’74).