EXCLUSIVE: Oscar Freire talks Vuelta, Jumbo-Visma & more

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EXCLUSIVE: Oscar Freire talks Vuelta, Jumbo-Visma & more
Oscar Freire winning the 2004 World Cup in Verona
Oscar Freire winning the 2004 World Cup in Verona
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Oscar Freire (47) is a cycling legend. His brilliant track record includes three road cycling world championship gold medals - the most in history along with Eddy Merckx, Alfredo Binda, Rik van Steenbergen and Peter Sagan. He also won a world championship silver and a world bronze.

In his career, Freire won four stages in the Tour de France and seven in the Vuelta a Espana. He won both the Milan-San Remo and the Brabanste Pijl three times and also won the Tirreno-Adriatico, the Paris-Tours and the Vuelta a Andalucia among other great triumphs.

Freire was a sprinter of enormous talent and an astute rider like few others in preparing for and executing big finishes. He spoke exclusively to Flashscore from the heart of the Vuelta, which he is following first-hand.

Flashscore News: What is Oscar Freire doing for a living these days?

Freire: "When I gave up cycling, I came back to Spain. After many years of travelling and being away from home, I wanted to be close to my family, watching my children grow up and taking care of my investments.

"Now I follow the Vuelta as an ambassador for Plenitude (the race sponsor) and I am always connected to cycling in one way or another."

Seeing the race so closely, do you feel nostalgic about your time as a rider?

"Sometimes I do. I lived through some very turbulent years when there was more talk about doping than about the sport itself and the results. Now everything has changed, it is more highly valued and much more professionalised.

"On the one hand, I would have liked to have lived through this period as a cyclist but, on the other hand, now everything is analysed much more, there is a mountain of data to study and interpret. When I was racing it was a different culture but, in general, it is better to be a cyclist now than before."

Of all the races you won during your career, do you have a special affection for any of them? 

"It's difficult to choose. The three world golds were very nice but I have a great memory of the second victory at Milan-San Remo in 2007.

"I had had a bad year of results, at the Tirreno-Adriatico I was sick with a fever, I was not well psychologically because of the lack of victories and I came with a great desire to win. That's when I got it and I was very excited because I needed it."

Freire still rides very often
Oscar Freire

Have you ever seen a team as powerful as Team Jumbo-Visma is today?

"I don't think so. A few days ago, after the triple stage they did in the Vuelta, when I got to the hotel I turned on the television and, in a race in England, Jumbo was also dominating that race. 

"They were sweeping the field in two different places. It's unbelievable. I think it's the strongest team in the history of cycling, at least that I've ever seen."

'Kuss deserves to win La Vuelta'

Of the three leaders they have (Primoz Roglic, Jonas Vingegaard and Sepp Kuss), who would you prefer to win?

"It would be nice if the one who has won the least would win. Kuss is a nice guy, he has always helped his teammates, he is considered the best domestique in the world and now he has the chance to win.

"The other two may be better riders but Kuss deserves it more this time."

Do you think Roglic, Vingegaard and the team will allow him to win? 

"At the beginning, I thought not but now, at this stage, I think that if Kuss holds on in the remaining stages, they will control the situation.

"If he fails, there will be a battle between Roglic and Vingegaard but I hope the American will have the chance to win the Vuelta."

The level of the race is impressive even with Tadej Pogacar missing. Would his presence have made a difference? 

"It probably would have. UAE also has a very strong team. In the Tour, maybe he wasn't spectacular but Pogacar is a rider who almost never misses and is terrific. With him, it would have been a different race."

Freire is still in good shape
Oscar Freire

What has impressed you most so far in the Vuelta? 

"On the one hand, the overwhelming domination of Jumbo and, on the other hand, the display of (Remco) Evenepoel after his collapse on the way to the Tourmalet. If you've been a cyclist, you realise how difficult it is to do what this guy has achieved.

"The day after the hard emotional blow he took, he managed to recover and rode the stage at full speed from kilometre zero with an average of almost 37 km/h, on a really tough course, and won the stage. It was impressive."

Of the four Spaniards (Juan Ayuso, Enric Mas, Mikel Landa and Marc Soler) behind the three Jumbo leaders, who has the best chance to push for the final podium?

"It's very difficult to answer. Maybe Ayuso and Landa are the bravest. Soler also tends to go on the attack but since he is doing well in the general classification, he may want to play it safe. Enric is the least likely of the four to go on the attack.

"It will depend on how much strength each of them has left in the last week but some will also be conservative in order not to lose their current positions.

"Evenepoel is different in that respect. If he looks good, he forgets about the others and rides his own race."

A final word - who do you think will win La Vuelta?

"Until recently, I thought Vingegaard was going to win. I saw him as very strong and he comes from winning the Tour but now I have doubts about that with Kuss emerging.

"He is very good and, honestly, I think they are racing for Kuss to win."

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