Ósca r Freire

Procycling - - Rider Diaries -

15 Feb 1976 – When an un­known Spa­niard pil­fered the World Cham­pi­onship in 1999, cy­cling fans were by turns per­plexed and in­can­des­cent. How could a win­ner of pre­cisely one pre­vi­ous race hi­jack the sport’s blue rib­bon event? How shame­ful was it that the jersey worn with such dis­tinc­tion by Coppi and Mer­ckx could be sul­lied by a no­body from Cantabria?

The re­al­ity, of course, was the ex­act op­po­site. Freire, by his own ad­mis­sion, was some­thing of a bub­ble-head in every­day life – fa­mously he once turned up to race mi­nus one of his shoes. Yet he was a ge­nius on a bike. A sprinter-road­man of im­mense class, he trained and raced less than the rest but his re­sults were as­ton­ish­ing. He’d even­tu­ally add two fur­ther rainbow jer­seys, three edi­tions of Mi­lano-San­remo, a green jersey and Paris-Tours.

In purely nu­mer­i­cal terms, Freire’s pal­marès doesn’t war­rant a place even in the top 50, so why have we used our dis­cre­tion to in­clude him here? De­spite be­ing just about the least con­spic­u­ous of rid­ers, he was touched by great­ness. At San­remo and the Worlds you rarely, if ever, saw him un­til the last 200 me­tres, yet from there he was su­perb. He also sur­vived the most tur­bu­lent pe­riod in cy­cling his­tory by and large un­sul­lied by the scourge of dop­ing, quite a feat in it­self… Great­est win: In 2008 he be­came the first Spa­niard to win the green jersey. Though not the fastest, his was a tri­umph of longevity and cy­cling in­tel­lect. 1977 Vuelta a Es­paña: Maertens won 13 of 21 stages. In a show of ut­ter dom­i­nance he held the race lead from start to fin­ish to claim his only Grand Tour win. Tour de France: 16 stages, three points clas­si­fi­ca­tion wins, 1976, 1978, 1981 Giro d’Italia: 7 stages Vuelta a Es­paña: 13 stages, over­all and points com­pe­ti­tion: 1977 World Champs: 1976, ’81 Paris-Nice: 1977 Gent-Wevel­gem: 1975, ’76 Paris-Tours: 1975

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