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Farrar welcomes Cavendish, promises to lead-out former rival

Tyler Farrar and Mark Cavendish once bashed elbows in the heat of the sprints as bitter rivals. Now, with the blockbuster deal confirmed Tuesday for Cavendish to join MTN-Qhubeka for 2016, the once-combative pair will become teammates.

During his run from 2009 to 2011, when Farrar scored stage victories in all three grand tours, he was one of the few riders who could beat Cavendish at his peak. And they knocked heads more than a few times, but the years have passed and tempers have mellowed, and Farrar said he is excited about the prospect of riding in support of his former adversary.

“Sure, we had our moments when we butted heads, but we’ve both grown up a little bit,” Farrar said. “That’s natural, especially when you’re young, and sprinting is the most emotional aspect of professional cycling, so tempers always flare. On the whole, we’ve always stayed fairly cordial.”

Cavendish, 30, will join the South Africa-registered team, along with Mark Renshaw and Bernard Eisel, two of his key lead-out men from the High Road glory days when Cavendish was unrivaled in the sprints.

MTN-Qhubeka, which will change its name to Dimension Data — a new title sponsor — for 2016, brought on riders such as Farrar, Theo Bos, Matt Goss, and Edvald Boasson Hagen this season to help the second-division squad secure its Tour de France invitation. MTN-Qhubeka won a few sprints, but not nearly as many as would be expected with such a deep lineup of sprinters.

Now 31, Farrar said Cavendish’s arrival will only be a plus for the team, and said he would gladly slot into a lead-out role behind the prodigious sprinter from the Isle of Man.

“I think we have a really deep team when it comes to sprints, but as I think you’ve seen, we really haven’t had someone who could close the deal against the best of the best,” Farrar said. “If you put the support that we already have in place behind a guy like Cav, I think we’re going to win a whole lot of races next year.”

It’s unsure how some of the other sprinters might react to Cavendish’s imminent arrival, but Farrar was diplomatic and realistic. He admitted that his fastest years are behind him, and said he would be committed to helping Cavendish in the sprints.

“I am at that point of my career,” said Farrar, whose two-year deal with the team continues in 2016. “I am better served being a real good lead-out man for a top sprinter than I am fighting it out for myself to finish third through eighth in field sprints. … You could make the argument that [Cavendish is] the greatest sprinter of all time. I am really excited about it. I think it’s going to be a productive year for us next season.”

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