Rabobank pick up party bill

While Rabobank and Oscar Freire are delighted with the newly won rainbow jersey, the Spaniard is not

While Rabobank and Oscar Freire are delighted with the newly won rainbow jersey, the Spaniard is not
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Spain weren't the only ones celebrating Oscar Freire's success last Sunday. Several members of the Spaniard's Rabobank team attended the post-race party in Verona, including Erik Dekker and team manager Theo de Rooij, who was happy to pick up some of the bill for the celebration. Although Freire's first season with Rabobank in 2003 didn't bring many of the big wins that were expected both by rider and team, this season Freire has finally broken through at the World Cup with victory at Milan-San Remo, and will now spend next season in a Rabobank-branded rainbow jersey. Freire will also be reunited with his close friend and Worlds domestique Pedro Horrillo, who is joining Rabobank from Quick Step. Despite the general mood of celebration, Freire still admits to feeling some bitterness about the lack of recognition he feels he receives in Spain. "I would really like to race there, but they don't value me enough, whereas abroad they do," said Freire, who voiced similar concerns in an interview in procycling prior to the 2003 Worlds. "I have had to go abroad, just as Astarloa and Flecha have, and it would not surprise me if Valverde had to do the same as well." In an interview with AS, he continued: "I don't think I will ever ride in a Spanish team. The reason they don't sign riders like us is not because they don't have the money, but because there is no value placed on the Classics in our country. Major stage race riders are the only ones who count." After once again eulogising about the performance of Alejandro Valverde during the latter stages of Sunday's race, Freire revealed that serious discussions had been taking place between Valverde and Rabobank. No deal, he said, has been agreed because of what he called "the abusive clause" in Valverde's contract which requires any team to pay CV-Kelme two million euros to secure Valverde's signature.
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