Freire sprints to Ghent-Wevelgem victory

First ever Spaniard to win

Spain's Oscar Freire, riding for Rabobank, won the 70th edition of the Ghent-Wevelgem ProTour one-day classic here on Wednesday.

The triple world champion dominated Swiss rider Aurélien Clerc, Belgian Wouter Weylandt and German veteran Erik Zabel in a mass sprint to become the first Spaniard to capture the Ghent-Wevelgem.

"It's a huge satisfaction to become the first Spanish winner of this race," said the 32-year-old winner. "It makes me proud, but it wasn't easy. There was wind out there. But I had strong legs today, and I asked the team to control things."

The 209km race, sandwiched between the Tour of Flanders and the Paris-Roubaix, was marked by a near 100km-long breakaway led by Ermanno Capelli. The Italian was joined after the Kemmelberg, the second of the day's climbs, by his compatriot Filippo Pozzato and local hope Philippe Gilbert with the leaders rejoining the main pack 26km from the finish.

Norwegian Kurt-Asle Arvesen and then Swiss competitor Martin Elmiger broke again 20km out with this duo being joined by Frederic Guesdon, Manuel Quinziato and Australian Stuart O'Grady. The peloton, pushed by riders from the Rabobank, High Road, Quick Step and Barloworld teams, caught this quintet with three kilometres to go, with Freire prevailing in the dash for the line.

Freire, whose three world titles came in 1999, 2001 and 2004, added: "It's a good win. As for my next race, that's the Amstel Gold on April 20."

For full results, report and photos, see

© AFP 2008

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