First Tour win after six podium spots

REDON, France (VN) — The most poignant victory salute in cycling is Tyler Farrar’s “W” in honor for Wouter Weylandt.

Farrar dashed his way to an emotional breakthrough victory at the Tour de France in Monday’s third stage, but the first person he remembered was Weylandt, who died tragically at this year’s Giro d’Italia. Farrar dedicated the stage to the Belgian with his two-hand “W” victory salute as Garmin-Cervélo kept its train on track with a second victory in a row.

“I’ve been through a lot of emotional ups and downs the past few months. I wasn’t even sure I was going to come to the Tour, but I decided the best way to honor Wouter was to come to the Tour and win a stage for him,” Farrar said. “It’s hard to believe it happened, but everything went perfect today.”

The victory is not only important for Farrar at a personal level, but it also marks an important breakthrough in his sprinting trajectory. Since his steady climb up the sprinting power charts, Farrar has taken important one-day victories as well as racked up wins at the Giro and Vuelta a Espana. The Tour remained a hard nut to crack, however. Since his debut in 2009, Farrar has sprinted to three second places and three third places, but the win remained elusive — until Monday.

“It’s huge for Tyler,” said Garmin sport director Lionel Marie. “It’s great for the team, but for Tyler, it’s something special to win finally at the Tour.”

It was another banner day for Garmin-Cervélo, which also got the Tour monkey off its back with victory in Sunday’s team time trial. Thor Hushovd proved he’s a classy world champion by riding hard in the final meters to help drive home the victory. Julian Dean gave Farrar a perfect lead-out and Farrar was able to finish off the job. Arch-rival Mark Cavendish saw his HTC-Highroad train become derailed and he came across fifth without challenging for victory.

“I’ve been close to victory, with second, third, second, so to finally win is a dream come true,” Farrar said. “And to win the way we rode as a team makes it even better. It was a special situation with Thor in yellow. We wanted to keep the jersey and try to win the stage. When you have the world champion and yellow jersey leading you out, you better do a good sprint.”

Garmin-Cervélo’s double-barreled celebration continued. Hushovd kept the jersey — with David Millar in second tied on time with Hushovd and poised for a run at yellow in Tuesday’s uphill finale at the Mur-de-Bretagne. The Norwegian world champion said there was no question that he was going to help lead-out Farrar in today’s stage.

“We had two goals today, to keep my jersey and to win with Tyler,” Hushovd said. “Julian (Dean) did a good pull and Tyler made a nice sprint to win this wonderful stage. Tyler was already a big sprinter. He’s won big races the past few years. He’s a nice guy off the bike, but in the bunch sprints, you have to fight for position to be up there for the win. He’s a rider who’s working hard, who has his goals and often achieves them.”

The victory also came with a nice lead-out from longtime confidante and friend Julian Dean. The veteran Kiwi struggled with injuries this year, but Farrar insisted that he be part of the Garmin Tour Nine. Dean opened up his lead-out with 150 meters to go and Farrar had nothing but the finish line waiting for him.

“I had a tough lead-in into the Tour, I don’t feel at my best yet, but it’s great to get the win. We’re really elated with this. We did a lot of work in the team time trial yesterday. These first few stages, there can always be a bit of luck involved, but today, there was no question,” Dean said. “We rode it perfectly in the final, with Dave and Thor, who is a true champion leading out in the yellow jersey. The plan today was to take the stage and defend the yellow jersey, and we did both.”

With the victory, Farrar becomes the second American to officially win stages in all three grand tours. David Zabriskie also holds the record. Tyler Hamilton became the first, but his stage victory during the 2004 Vuelta a Espana was erased when he tested positive for blood doping.

Garmin-Cervélo will try again Tuesday, but Farrar knows that the uphill climbing finish isn’t ideal for his capabilities. He will have at least one stage to savor his win before bumping elbows again in the bunch sprints. Farrar will be hoping to dedicate another win to Weylandt.