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Three-time world champion Oscar Freire is set to return to racing at the Majorca Challenge in a couple of weeks with his focus set on the Classics, the points title at the Tour de France and, of course, the world title in Salzburg.
Bizarrely, despite being sidelined since last April by illness and then an injury on his 'sit' bone that he has still not fully recovered from, the Spaniard finished last season as his country's most successful rider in terms of wins. Thanks to an early season burst of form when he was riding so well that "I didn't even notice the toughness of the training", Freire stormed to victory in Tirreno-Adriatico on the back of three stage wins.
However, he tells this morning's AS, that that form is still to be discovered again this season as recovery from his injury and bad weather has combined to prevent him from completing the five-hour training rides he needs in which to be in optimum form for the Classics.
He says that his main desire this season is "good health", which is no surprise for a rider who admits to having completed just 300 days of racing in eight years as a pro. Assuming his injury does not flare up again, Freire then says he will be looking to get some morale-boosting miles under his belt early this season and then ahead to bigger challenges.
"My objectives are the same as those that I had to abandon last year because of the injury: the Classics, the Tour's green jersey and the Worlds," he tells AS. Among the Classics he will hope to challenge for is the Tour of Flanders, which he missed last year due to flu, and he says that there will be no problem between him and new team-mate Juan Antonio Flecha in the key one-day races.
"Things were worse when I was at Mapei because there were lots of riders there who could win Classics. But with Flecha there will be no problem, because the road will decide between us," he explains. "We've also got to think about Michael Boogerd and also Erik Dekker, even though he is now in his last season."
And the Tour? "I've only ridden it twice. In 2002 I was in very good form, won a stage, then crashed on the seventh day and had to quit. In 2003 I was in poor form but was obliged to finish. I think that if all goes well I've got a chance of winning the green jersey."
And then Freire will hope to look to the Worlds, where he has the chance of a record-breaking fourth victory. "The circuit is very similar to Madrid," he says. "But it will be a longer race and when they go beyond 250 kilometres the distance makes a difference."
And does he think he'll stay with Rabobank when his contract ends this season? "We'll see at the end of the year. I think both sides are happy with the deal. On the other hand, some other team might want me, although I am sure it won't be a Spanish one. I've given up on that option."
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