Three-times World Champion Oscar Freire has signed for Katusha in 2012, Spanish press reports said on Thursday. The deal guarantees the country’s top Classics rider another year in the peloton.
Freire, 35, was said to be considering retirement after a year in which he has failed to shine, in part because of illness and injuries. He was then unable to reach an agreement with his longstanding team, Rabobank.
Written off by many on countless occasions in the past, the Spaniard has always bounced back: in 2010 he was supposedly well past his sell-by date, but ended up being the only rider to take two major Classics in the same year – Paris-Tours and, for a third time, Milan – San Remo.
This year has been one of Freire’s least successful, with just two stage wins in the early season Tour of Andalusia. Sidelined from this year’s Tour de France at his own request, he then abandoned the Tour of Spain before miscalculating his sprint in the World Championships and finishing ninth.
At Katusha, Freire will be one of just two sprinters, the other being the talented young Roman Galimzymov, recently a winner of a stage in the Tour of Beijing.
For the final season of a career stretching back to 1998, Freire will have two big targets: the Olympic road-race in London and the world championships in the Netherlands where he will go for a record-breaking fourth title. A win in either would be the perfect way to sign off Freire’s fifteen-year career.