Road

Freire holds off retirement to aim for fourth world title

Óscar Freire (Rabobank) was back in the winner’s circle Monday for the first time in nine months with victory in the second day of the Mallorca Challenge.

Óscar Freire (Rabobank) was back in the winner’s circle Monday for the first time in nine months with victory in the second day of the Mallorca Challenge.

That’s a long drought for the Spanish sprinter who has an uncanny knack of winning important races, but last year, Freire didn’t win a stage in any grand tour or classic and only notched two wins all season long.

Back in good health after a troubled 2009 season, the oft-injured Freire said he has unfinished business, especially with the world championships. Already a winner of three rainbow jerseys, Freire wants to make history as the only winner of four world crowns.

“I could become the only rider in history to win four world titles, that’s my dream,” he told the Spanish daily AS. “I don’t want to retire until I achieve it, but I don’t obsess about it, either.”

Freire is especially optimistic about the Australian worlds’ course, which is perfectly suited to his style of racing.

“From what they’ve said, it appears it adapts very well to my characteristics, without major complications and it’s flat,” he continued. “We’ll see what happens in September (if Freire is the lone Spanish captain) and that’s still far away. I’ve already demonstrated that they can count on me because I’ve won three worlds. Lately, though, we haven’t done so well with so many captains.”

At 32, Freire confirmed he will race at least through 2011 with Rabobank and admitted it’s not as easy to win in the sprints against younger and, according to Freire, more careless rivals.

“What scares me is the risks that some take in the final sprint. A lot of them are going like crazy and they practically throw you out of the way, or leave you without options. But that arrival of younger riders is normal and I was once part of a new generation. It’s never easy to win,” Freire said. “I spoken with the team and my intention is to continue at least one more year (through 2011). I feel good and I’ve put injuries behind me and I like the challenge of continuing to fight.”

Freire will also target Milan-San Remo, which he’s won twice, as well as the Giro d’Italia, which starts in May in Holland. Freire’s never won a stage in the Giro and would like to make his sponsors happy with a victory in the corsa rosa to round out his palmares with wins in all three grand tours.