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By Andrew Hood
Tyler Farrar got the monkey off Garmin-Slipstream’s back.
After a string of close calls, with no less than nine second places in grand tours in 2009, including second by Ryder Hesjedal in Tuesday’s 10th stage, Farrar was first across the line in a major three-week race in Wednesday 11th stage at the Vuelta a España.
It’s an important milestone for both Farrar and Garmin.
For Farrar, the victory caps a season-long quest and confirms his breakout season as one of the top emerging sprinters of his generation. And for Garmin, it gives the team its first individual stage victory in a grand tour and ends the squad’s frustrating streak of near misses.
VeloNews European correspondent Andrew Hood caught up with Farrar via telephone as he was driving in the Garmin team bus from Caravaca de la Cruz to Almeria.
VeloNews: Congratulations, but with two hard climbs, it wasn’t a sure bet of a sprint?
Tyler Farrar: It finally came together. It was hard all day. It was a horrible stage, with more than 3,000 meters of climbing. I wasn’t optimistic to make it in the front group today, but the team was there for me all day, keeping me in position, passing me water bottles, supporting me. When we went over that last climb, I had Ryder (Hesjedal) there to help me come back. Dave Millar did a great job in the last kilometer and delivered me perfect for the sprint. I just had to finish it off. It was kind of a false-flat on the finish, that tends to suit me pretty well. We had so much speed, I just had so much momentum going. It was perfect.
VN: How did it feel coming across the line after so many close calls?
TF: It was amazing. We’ve been chasing it all year. I said to the guys, you’ve done 10 times the amount of work you should have to get a grand tour stage. The team really believed in me all year and I could finally deliver. It’s too bad Matt White (sport director) isn’t here. He’s up for the Tour of Britain, but he’s been there all season for me. He really kept the faith in me and kept the guys riding for me.
VN: You’ve had a great summer, with wins at Vattenfall and the Eneco tour, but is this victory something special?
TF: This is my first grand tour win, so it is something special. I’ve had a good run since the Tour and I wanted to keep it going. Coming to the Vuelta, I was hoping to get a stage. The past few days I’ve been starting to get tired. It’s been a long season, but I knew I had a few good days left in me. I knew if I stuck it out, I could give it a try. Today was a really hard stage. I wouldn’t have picked myself as a winner before the stage started today!
VN: How was it for you in the first few stages?
TF: The first sprint stages were really hectic, on small roads with some bad weather. The team has been great in supporting me. The team delivered me perfectly in the second sprint stage (stage 3), but I just didn’t have the legs that day, which was a pity. They kept plugging away. We knew if we had the right circumstances, we’d get the win.
VN: You hit the deck in Liège, but you weren’t seriously injured?
TF: That crash was bad. I went down right in the heat of the sprint. I wasn’t hurt at all. I have never went down so fast with so little road rash. I walked away with almost nothing. It was so slippery and wet, I think we all just slid. There wasn’t anything to have any friction.
VN: Will you stay for the rest of the Vuelta?
TF: My plan since the start of the Vuelta was to take it day-by-day. I am starting to get run down a bit and there are some hard stages to come. We’re entering more Tommy D’s domain for the next few days, where he will be riding for the GC. We’ll see.
VN: You’re still planning on racing worlds and Paris-Tours?
TF: My plan is to keep going all the way through Paris-Tours. The worlds is a hard course, it’s a climber’s course, so I will be working there for someone who is a better climber than me. The last objective of the year is Paris-Tours.
VN: I noticed you have a new tattoo on your arm, what does it say?
TF: It says, ‘May all be happy.’ I had it covered up at the Eneco tour because it was fresh, and they said for the first 10 days or two weeks, you don’t want to get too much sun or dirt on a new tattoo. It’s written in Pali, an Indian language. It’s a Buddhist saying. I came across it when I was researching a tattoo that I have with my brother. We both have the same tattoo and I found this one. I really like what it means.
VN: What’s the other tattoo?
TF: It’s written in Tibetan and it says ‘Inner peace.’
VN: Have you ever been to Tibet or Nepal and were exposed to Buddhist culture?
TF: I’ve been twice to Nepal, traveling there with my dad. He was climbing some mountains in the Khumbu Valley. I was too young to climb, I was 13-14, so I would hang out in the base camp while he was climbing. I just think they’re really nice sayings. I like the meaning of what they convey. I like the calligraphy and like what they mean.
VN: What do you think of people who say you’re too nice to be a sprinter?
TF: Well, I think it’s been OK so far, it seems to be working. You have to be tough in a sprint, but it’s sport. You can be aggressive and competitive, but it doesn’t mean you have to be like that all the time.