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Nine North American riders to watch in this year’s Tour de France

Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp)

Wenatchee, Washington
As one of five North Americans in Garmin’s line-up, Tyler Farrar enters this year’s Tour de France with the newfound confidence of a stage winner, but without a win in 2012. He beat Mark Cavendish with a superb leadout in stage 3 — on the Fourth of July — in last year’s Tour.

Outside of second place at the GP Scheldeprijs, a Belgian semi-classic for the sprinters, Farrar has had a relatively quiet season thus far. He abandoned the Giro d’Italia after a heavy fall in stage 6. He is, however, the undisputed king of North American sprinters, and the soon-to-be Olympian should be at his best this July. Farrar will be one to watch for the sprints not only for his own prowess — he has consistently been one of the three top sprinters in recent Tours — but for the sprint battle in which he will take part.

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Farrar will go head-to-head against Cavendish (Sky), Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEdge), Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale), Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) and J.J. Rojas (Movistar). Another Tour de France stage victory for Farrar would serve as a huge boost in confidence for him as he will face much of the same opposition in the Olympic road race the weekend after the Tour’s finish on the Champs Élysées.

The Washington native has risen through the ranks from being Gord Fraser’s apprentice at Health Net to a two-year assignment with Cofidis to a position as the top sprinter for the American ProTeam. His path to a Tour stage win has been bumpy, however. Farrar’s father, Ed, was hit by a car while riding in late 2008 and was paralyzed from the chest down. In May of 2011, Farrar’s close friend Wouter Weylandt died in a crash at the Giro d’Italia. Farrar dedicated his stage win in 2011 to Weylandt and has slowly put the crash behind him. A bike race is small potatoes in the face of such tragedy, but a Tour stage win is the pinnacle of the sport for a pure sprinter and a second would go a long way to send Farrar to London with medal contention on the top of his mind.

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