By Andrew Hood
Tyler Farrar did what many haven’t been able to manage lately – come around Mark Cavendish to win a bunch sprint.
That’s just what the 24-year-old Garmin-Slipstream did on what was a very lucky Friday the 13th.
He timed his final punch to the line perfectly to win the 166km third stage from Fuchecchio to Santa Croce Sull’Arno at the 44th Tirreno-Adriatico on Friday.
Farrar bolted past Cavendish’s left shoulder, taking a prestigious bunch sprint ahead of the likes of Tom Boonen (fourth) and Robbie McEwen (fifth).
Following Christian Vande Velde’s stage win Wednesday at Paris-Nice, it was Garmin-Slipstream’s second big victory of the week.
The victory was especially emotional for Farrar, whose father, Ed, was paralyzed after being hit by a car while cycling to work last fall. He quickly dedicated his victory to his father.
VeloNews was there for the post-stage press conference:
Question: How would you characterize this victory?
Tyler Farrar: This is, by far, my biggest victory. It’s a similar feeling to when I won two stages at Avenir. That showed me that I could race at this level as a professional. With this victory, now I can see I can win at this level.
Q: How does it feel to win ahead of people like Cavendish and Boonen?
TF: It’s fantastic. I’ve been waiting for my first big win for a while now. It has been a bit of a rough winter, because my father was hit by a car and was paralyzed. So I spent the winter in America to be with him. I had a good winter of training and I knew I was coming here with some good form. I just needed some luck. I’ve had a few wins, but never something as big as this, against a field like this. I dedicate this victory to my father.
Q: For some people, this victory was a surprise, was it for you as well?
TF: Yes and no. I always knew that I was capable of doing this, that I knew I had it in me to win, that it was just a matter of luck, and being at the right place at the right time.
Q: Tell us about the sprint, how did you get into position?
TF: The team had a lot of confidence in me all day. I had Julian Dean, Martijn Maaskant and Mike Friedman taking care of me during the last 30km, keeping me out of the wind. They put me in position until 5km to go. Martijn did a great super pull through the final crosswind section. Then I was just looking for the wheels of the teams leading out the sprint. Cav just came inside of me in the last corner. I know he’s fast, so I took his wheel. I think he went a little too early. I saw him slow down at a little at the end, so I could take my chance.
Q: Have you changed anything in your training to become stronger?
TF: I’ve changed my training quite a bit. I’ve been working with Adrie (Van Diem) and he’s had me do things differently. I’ve been spending more time in the gym, hitting the weight room, a lot more motor-pacing. It’s starting to pay off. I feel stronger than ever.
Q: Last year you were fifth at Paris-Tours, how do you expect to do at Milan-San Remo?
TF: I’m here to get in shape for the classics. This is good for my confidence, but Milan-San Remo is a special race. It’s so long, but my condition is good. If I have a good day, I hope to do something. I’m good for the sprint, but in the mountains, let’s wait and see how I do. On a good day, I can survive the climbs, on a bad day, well … I’m going to try.
Q: What are your expectations for the northern classics?
TF: We have a young team, but we will have a strong team. I am just hoping to have the best possible condition and see how it plays out. Martijn was fourth last year in Paris-Roubaix. If Martijn is good, I’ll do everything I can to help him. If he’s not so good or if I am on a great day, maybe I’ll try something. I’ll do the best I can.
Q: Why do you live in Ghent instead of Girona with your other Garmin teammates?
TF: I’ve been there a few years now. I was already living there when I came to the team. I’m happy there. It’s great training for the classics. It’s most important to be happy and to train for the classics, for me, that’s in Belgium. The rain doesn’t bother me so much because I am from Washington, so I am used to it.
Q: What does this victory do for your confidence?
TF: I already felt like I was in good condition, but to win in front of riders like this is huge. This does a lot for my confidence ahead of the classics. I hope it’s the first of many wins this year.
Q: It’s the second big win of the week for the team, things are going well?
TF: This team is having a good week. With Christian winning in Paris-Nice is just great. These things tend to build and raise the morale of everyone. I hope it keeps going in this way.
Q: Being an American, what do you think of Lance Armstrong’s comeback?
TF: It’s good for American cycling. I think in the long-term, it’s a good thing for cycling. It brings lots of attention to the sport, especially in the United States, where it’s not so popular like it is here in Italy or Belgium. There’s no one who can bring that kind of attention to cycling like Lance. He’s a big celebrity, not just in cycling, but all over the world. At the Tour of California, which always has good crowds, you saw three times as many people this year because they wanted to watch Armstrong race. He has a compelling story and I looked up to him. I’m a very different kind of rider, so it’s not like I wanted to be like Lance Armstrong some day. When I was just starting, he was winning the Tour de France every year. He’s the best American cyclist ever.