FREIRE BOUNCES BACK IN OPENING STAGE OF MAJORCA
Spanish sprinter Oscar Freire has described his victory in the opening stage of the Tour of Majorca on Sunday as “more than just a ‘normal’ win.” According to the delighted Rabobank rider, success in the bunch sprint that concluded the 100 kilometre criterium on Palma’s seafront meant that his injury-troubled 2006 season - in which he barely raced in the second half of the year - was finally, definitively behind him.
“This was no easy sprint, but it was a very important one for me to do well in.” Freire insisted. “In the last few metres I got a great lead-out from my team-mate Pedro Horrillo and that was what made it possible for me to win.”
Freire added that he had deliberately trained harder than usual in January and February “because I needed to win as soon as possible to get my morale back after such an awful second half of 2006. Beating two of the world’s top sprinters, Erik Zabel [18th] and Tom Boonen [122nd] so clearly made that victory feel even better.”
Whilst Freire’s victory was not so surprising - this is the eighth stage win of his career in Majorca - such a poor showing by Boonen was more than unexpected. The Belgian has already taken four stages of the Tour of Qatar this year, so his form is clearly good. However, Majorca’s opening sprint finish - located on a gently curving left -hand bend - is always tricky to control and is often dangerous. Appreciating the risks involved, Boonen sat up.
Second behind Freire was Caisse d’Epargne’s Jose Joaquin Rojas, with Astana Guennadi Mikhailov took third. Taking part in his first race of the season, Britain’s David Millar finished safely in the main bunch, whilst Magnus Backstedt (Liquigas), back after a number of injuries, finished slightly less than a minute back.
Monday’s second stage of Majorca runs from Cala Millor to Cala Bona, and is 159.7 kilometres long.