By Andrew Hood
Three-time world champion Oscar Freire isn’t boasting of winning another rainbow jersey or sweeping the spring classics. Instead, the oft-injured Spanish sprinter is simply hoping to enjoy an injury-free season in 2006.
Dogged by pain and complications since a June surgery that forced him to miss the road world’s on his home roads of Madrid last September, Freire is optimistic he can leave behind what was a black season and trade it for one rich with victories.
“2005 was a very difficult year for me,” Freire told reporters at last week’s team presentation. “I won’t be able to say how I am until I put in some hard miles next week in Spain. It’s hard to say where I am now, but I hope to be ready in time for Milan-San Remo.”
Doubling on the finishing straight on the Via Roma – where he won by inches ahead of Erik Zabel in 2004 – is a good place to start for the 30-year-old Spaniard. He’ll debut his season at the Mallorca Challenge in February, then race Ruta del Sol and defend his title at Tirreno-Adriatico ahead of MSR.
Last year, he swept to several early season victories, but things started to go rotten by late spring with nagging pain in his hip bone, prompting him to abandon the Tour de Suisse.
A surgery in June was meant to be a short recovery, but he never raced again, missing the world’s for the first time in eight years.
“I thought I would sit out 20 days. I knew that I would forfeit the Tour, but I believed I could still race the world’s,” Freire said. “I think 2005 was the worst year of my career. It was hard to miss all the racing, especially the world championships. It was a perfect circuit for me and it was in Madrid. In the end, Tom Boonen deserved to win the world’s.”
Barring injury, Freire is eyeing a strong showing at Milan-San Remo, another shot at the Tour de France and then, of course, a run at a fourth world title. He believes the Salzburg course is one that also suits his style.
Cunego in Sicily
Former Giro d’Italia champ Damiano Cunego (Lampre) is searching out warmer weather in Sicily as he prepares for the 2006 season.
The 2004 Giro champ headed to Italy’s southern island for some training rides, putting in six hours and about 190km in one ride. Rain and cooler temperatures dogged the unit on Monday, forcing them to ride only about two hours. Joining him are Lampre teammates Daniele Bennati, Alessandro Ballan and Paolo Tiralongo. Paolini to debut at TDU
Luca Paolini is looking forward to making his Liquigas team debut at the Tour Down Under later this month.
“It’s a great race, with great weather and excellently organized,” he said. “I come with a strong team and it’s sure to be a big spectacle.”
Joining Paolini will be teammates Manuel Quinziato, Michael Albasini, Daniele Colli, Nicola Loda and Marco Righettto as well neo-pros Eros Capecchi and Maura Da Dalto. The remaining Liquigas riders will convene in Cecina Mare for a training camp Jan. 12-21. Paolini will return to Europe and make his European debut in February at the Mallorca Challenge before racing the Trofeo Laigueglia for his first race of the season on Italian roads. Sinkewitz feeling the pain
T-Mobile’s Patrik Sinkewitz is on the mend after suffering a leg infection that’s putting the brakes on his preparations at the team’s training camp currently underway in Mallorca. “I can’t put my full weight on the knee and thus am limited in my training,” Sinkewitz said on the team’s web page.
Team doctor Lothar Heinrich blamed a new pedaling technique as the cause of Sinkewitz’ problems.
“It’s not that uncommon among pro cyclists. Andreas Klöden and Christian Werner have struggled with the same infection in the past,” Heinrich said. “Pain always indicates that the knee is infected. Only when the infection has subsided will Patrik be able to return to full training.”
Sinkewitz arrived in Mallorca rearing to go after a December camp in South Africa with Jan Ullrich and Klöden. Team officials said rest should clear up the problem and it’s unlikely the infection will affect his racing season. Landbouwkrediet beefing up
Landbouwkrediet-Colnago continues to round out its roster for the 2006 season, adding Belgian riders Sjef De Wilde and Kevin Neirynck to its lineup for the upcoming season.
The Belgian continental team has already signed a deal with former mountain bike world champion Filip Meirhaeghe, who is expected to return from a two-year racing ban for testing positive for EPO in 2004. In total, 19 riders are signed on for the 2006 campaign.
Quick Step announces roster
ProTour teams Quick Step and Milram announced their 2006 rosters on Tuesday in Courtrai, Belgium, and Bremen, Germany. Quick Step enters the season with 29 riders, while Milram has two fewer.
Quick Step for 2006:
Serge Baguet (B)
Paolo Bettini (I)
Tom Boonen (B)
Davide Bramati (I)
Francesco Chicchi (I)
Wilfred Cretskens (B)
Steven De Jongh (Ned)
Addy Engels (Ned)
Juan Manuel Garate (SP)
Jose Antonio Garrido (SP)
Kevin Hulsmans (B)
Servais Knaven (Ned)
Nick Nuyens (B)
Filippo Pozzato (I)
Ivan SantoromI (I)
Leonardo Scarselli (I)
Hubert Schwab (Swi)
Bram Tankink (Ned)
Matteo Tosatto (I)
Guido Trenti (I)
Sebastien Rosseler (B)
Jurgen Van de Walle (B)
Kevin Van Impe (B)
Cedric Vasseur (F)
Geert Verheyen (B)
Davide Vigano (I)
Remmert Wielinga (Ned)
Kevin de Weert (B)
Wouter Weylandt (B)
General manager: Patrick Lefevere (B)
Team director: Alvaro CrSpi (I)
Sporting directors: Serge Parsani (I); Wilfried Peeters (B); Luca Guercilena (I); Ryk Van Slycke (B)