Freire facing a bum deal ahead of Tour start

Spaniard Oscar Freire, one of the favourites to dominate the bunch sprints at the Tour de France, could be forced to pull out of the race because of an injury on his backside.

Spaniard Oscar Freire, one of the favourites to dominate the bunch sprints at the Tour de France, could be forced to pull out of the race because of an injury on his backside.

Freire revealed Thursday, two days ahead of the Tour's opening prologue in London, that a recurrence of a cyst-like injury appeared to have resurfaced in the last week. The Rabobank rider had tried a new saddle on his bike, and after two long training rides he felt the same kind of pain from the problem which plagued his season three years ago.

Freire, a three-time world road race champion, is now battling to see if he can recover in time for Saturday's prologue. But the Rabobank team appear not to have too much faith in the injury-prone Spaniard making it in time. A source said they have already lined up newly-crowned Dutch champion Koos Moerenhout to replace Freire in the event he does not make it.

The team are in a tricky position. Once a rider pulls out of his nine-man team, he cannot be replaced once the race has started.

Losing Freire would be a huge blow to Rabobank's bid for stage victories. Last year the 31-year-old won stages five and nine, placed third in two other stages and claiming top ten finishes in four others.

© AFP 2007

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