Oscar Freire is considering a dream scenario, winning a record fourth world title in Valkenburg. The Spaniard of team Katusha narrowly missed the win yesterday in Amstel Gold, which proved to be a perfect trial for the World Championship.
“It’s a similar course,” Freire said following the Dutch race. “The Worlds maybe will be better [for me] because the finish line is almost a kilometre after the Cauberg.”
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World Championships this September 23 follows a similar route as the Amstel Gold. The first 100 kilometres from Maastricht to Valkenburg take in seven climbs, four that featured in yesterday’s race. The race enters a 16.5-kilometre circuit afterwards, covering the Bemelerberg and the Cauberg climb 10 times each.
Freire won his world titles in 1999, 2001 and 2004 in small group sprints. Yesterday, he attacked solo with seven kilometres remaining between the Keutenberg and final Cauberg climb. He nearly held off the charge behind led by Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), only falling short to the first three finishers: Enrico Gasparotto (Astana), Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol) and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale).
He faded on the 1.2-kilometre climb, but still did well to place fourth. In his favour, the finish line is around 1.5 kilometres later in the Worlds, on a flat, almost downhill road.
“I was very close to the victory,” Freire explained. It would have been his biggest win since winning Milan-San Remo and Paris-Tours in 2010, and it would have come in a completely different style.
“It was a strong headwind and impossible to recover on your own. If the wind was slightly different, I think I could’ve won.
“My legs felt like they were going to explode when I went to sprint. The last 400 metres felt like the hardest climb ever.”
Freire placed second on Wednesday in the Brabantse Pijl. The 36-year-old said after the race in a television interview that if he wins Worlds, he’d consider postponing retirement one more year.
“I’d like to race another year with the World Champion’s jersey. It’d be very difficult, but why not?”