Freire claims opening stage of Basque Tour
BREAKING NEWS: Alejandro Valverde has now been awarded the stage win.
ÓSCAR Freire claimed a controversial sprint as a 24-man breakaway fractured the resolve of some big names on the opening day of the Tour of the Basque Country.
WINNING FEELING: Oscar FreIre showed another impressive turn of speed to open up his Basque Tour with a confident victory
Sprint specialist Freire's aggressive tactics in the closing metres angered Alejandro Valverde as he seized line honours at the end of a demanding 152km stage pitted with five spiteful climbs.
"I'm in very good form and this proves it," he said.
It was another success for the in-form Rabobank rider, who recently claimed the Milan-San Remo, but several general classification contenders have seen their hopes of success in the six-stage race effectively finished.
Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez, despite the support of his Euskaltel team-mates, finished nearly two minutes down on the leading pack, which included Tour de France runner-up Andy Schleck, his brother Frank and Italy's Damiano Cunego.
The final climb of the race - which most are using as a tune up for next month's Giro d'Italia - claimed several casualties, including Team Sky's Bradley Wiggins, who finished well down on Freire's time.