SCHOTE, Belgium (VN) — Once the most bitter of rivals in the sprints, Mark Cavendish and Tyler Farrar are now bosom buddies at Dimension Data.
Farrar was one of the few riders who could challenge Cavendish in the Brit’s peak years, and there was no hiding the acrimony between the two. Flash forward to 2016, and these once-bitter adversaries are now teammates, and quickly becoming good friends.
“If you asked us five years ago if we were going to be teammates, we’d say no way,” Cavendish said. “We laugh about it. We sat in a bar in November, having a beer, laughing about it. He’s brilliant. He’s one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met. He’s such a good laugh, such a good guy, and he’s such a great teammate.”
That’s not always the case. Cavendish would often ridicule Farrar for trying to challenge him in the bunch sprints, and Farrar returned the favor, once accusing Cavendish of taking pulls on the team car during the 2011 Tour de France.
In 2010, Cavendish accused Wouter Weylandt, Farrar’s close friend who later died in a tragic accident at the 2011 Giro, of helping the American on a rival team in sprints during the 2010 Vuelta.
Last fall, when word spread that Cavendish would soon be joining him on Dimension Data, Farrar said he welcomed his former foe with open arms.
“We were down at Cape Town, and Cav and I now get along quite well. I thought, if we were teammates when we were 24-25, we would have been really good friends,” Farrar said in an earlier interview. “It’s different when you’re sprinting against someone. You both want to win, but we’ve both grown up a lot since then. Cav is a cool guy, and I am really looking forward to this year.”
Racing together for the first time this season in Europe on Wednesday at Scheldeprijs, Farrar was burying himself to set up Cavendish in the race that the American won in 2010 — pure teamwork and sacrifice.
“I think we did a good job with that today. We lost Renshaw with his crash, and I haven’t given Cav a real lead-out yet, so Cav was more comfortable coming off Kittel’s wheel,” Farrar said. “He just said, try to shelter me on Kittel’s wheel as long as you can. I made it to the kite. … A photo-finish between Kittel and Cavendish, with Greipel third, they’re the titans of field sprints.”
On Sunday, they will line up again for Paris-Roubaix. Cavendish returns for only the second time of his career, while Farrar is hoping to bounce back from a nasty crash at the Tour of Flanders.
“I crashed real hard in Flanders, and I was really paying for it the past few days. Even today, I was not in a happy place, but my body opened up as the race unfolded. I hope the body will continue to recover,” Farrar said. “I guess we will see what a wet Roubaix looks like. I don’t think anyone in the current peloton has seen a truly wet Roubaix. I will take sun any day.”
Farrar and Cavendish, now brothers in arms, instead of an arms race.