- Frank Schleck - shown here on stage 3 of the 2012 Ruta Del Sol - will lead RadioShack at Giro. Photo: Graham Watson | www.grahamwatson.com
- Oscar Freire wins stage three of the 2012 Ruta Del Sol. Photo: Graham Watson | www.grahamwatson.com
- Valverde slips on the leader's jersey once again after stage three. Photo: Graham Watson | www.grahamwatson.com
Oscar Freire (Katusha) dashed to his second victory of the 2012 season with a sprint win in Wednesday’s third stage at the Ruta del Sol in southern Spain.
The three-time world champion outkicked Daniel Schorn (NetApp) and Michael Matthews (Rabobank) in the 157km stage from Montemayor to Las Gabias across Spain’s Andalucia region. Freire, already a winner of a stage at the Tour Down Under, was content with the work of his new Katusha teammates.
“Today the team worked really well for me,” Freire said in a team report. “We managed to keep a high rhythm and not so many riders could stay with us. Regarding the sprint, I knew the last, difficult bend was more important than the last straight, which was downhill. It was not an easy sprint, but Paolini’s almost taken me to the end.”
The victory bodes well for Freire, who promises to retire at the end of this season. The Spanish veteran switched from Rabobank to Katusha after the Dutch outfit brought in Mark Renshaw to become the team’s new lead sprinter.
The Russian squad is working to give Freire more support in the sprint stages, something he’s already paid back with two stage victories in the opening month of racing in 2012.
“Our team spirit is great, we’re improving day by day, so I think this year we can get great result, also in more prestigious races,” Freire said. “I feel in a good shape. Obviously I’m not at my best level, also because there’s no need to be at this time of the season, but I’m working well in order to be at my top later. Anyway, these two victories are very important because they give us the right motivation for continuing this way and maybe improve.”