Spaniard Oscar Freire will skip the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia next year, and aim for a record fourth World Championships title.

He explained yesterday at team Rabobank’s presentation in the Netherlands that the team will support Robert Gesink at the Tour de France. Gesink finished sixth overall this year and needs an eight-man devoted to him.

“It looks like Rabobank wants to try to win the Tour with Gesink,” Freire told Spain’s Marca newspaper. “We’ll see if I race it or not. If I don’t, I will save my self for the second half the season, for the Vuelta a España and the World Championships.”

Freire won the World Championships title in 1999, 2001 and 2004, and would become the first to win it four times if he succeeds in Copenhagen on September 25. He will make the Worlds his late-season focus and aim for a fourth Milan-San Remo win on March 19.

Prior to the presentation, he finalised his schedule with Rabobank team manager, Erik Breukink. Since he has to skip the Tour de France, the team allowed him some leeway. Freire decided not to race the Tour Down Under in January and the Giro d’Italia in May, when his sinus problems are at their worst.

He will debut with the Mallorca Challenge in February. He will continue with the Vuelta a Andalusia, the Clásica de Almería or Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and the Tirreno-Adriatico as preparation races for the Milan-San Remo. After the ‘Classicissima’, he will then race Ghent-Wevelgem, País Vasco and the Ardennes Classics.

“The programme went very well [last year] until Milan-San Remo, and I would like to repeat that because my first big objective will the ‘Classicissima’ [San Remo]. It is not the best choice for me to go to Australia because it totally changes how I like to begin the season. What is most likely is that after the spring classics I will do the Tour of Romandy and the Tour of California. The Giro is too hard and there are barely any opportunities for the sprinters.”

Freire turns 35 in February and may not race another year. However, he said he was encouraged by his wins this season: a third Milan-San Remo and for the first time, Paris-Tours. The 2012 Olympics in London must look tempting.

“Everything depends on how it goes for me this season,” he said. “The motivation is still there to race.”

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