Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
SOUTH PASADENA, Calif. (VN) — It was another day on rollers before another stage of another bike race. Tyler Farrar was perfectly content pedaling in place, his long red hair pulled into a ponytail and tucked under his helmet.
The winner of six grand tour stages and 28 pro races, Farrar is in his first year as road captain of Dimension Data and part of the team’s lead-out corps for Mark Cavendish. The spotlight is off the veteran rider and he couldn’t be happier.
“I’ve been enjoying it; It’s the progression of my career, I guess,” Farrar, 31, said Monday prior to stage 2 of the Tour of California. “I had my peak years when I was younger and when I was really fast. As I’ve gotten older, I think I’ve just lost that high-end speed a little.”
Not too many years ago, Farrar’s image was emblazoned across the Garmin team bus as it made its way from grand tour to grand tour. The picture of himself, with his arms spread wide and mouth open with excitement crossing a finish line, was a surprise to Farrar. But he embraced it for a few years, winning Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and Vuelta a España stages, among other races. And he sometimes beat Cavendish, his former rival.
But Farrar, now in his 14th pro season, hasn’t won a race in more than 18 months, and his less-than-chummy on- and off-bike battles with his Cavendish are long forgiven, albeit not quite forgotten.
“When we were young, we definitely butted heads a few times, but that’s the sport, you know?,” said Farrar. “We were both young, ambitious guys. But we’ve actually been getting along well since we came to the team. Had you put us on the same team six years ago, I don’t know if it would have gone so well. But now it’s working great.”
Farrar is still attracting attention at races. He’s worn different eccentric hairstyles throughout his carer. But his current shoulder-length locks are the longest in the peloton, several inches ahead of defending Amgen Tour winner Peter Sagan’s famed hair. Farrar will soon donate his mane to the Locks of Love charity.
“It wasn’t the original reason I grew my hair out or anything,” Farrar said. “I just grew it out for the hell of it, really. But a friend told me that my hair is actually long enough now to donate. It’s a good cause; I might as well. You just cut it off and give it to them.”
Farrar and teammates Mark Renshaw and Bernhard Eisel have one of the strongest lead-outs in the Tour of California. But it didn’t work in the opening stage, when Sagan emerged at the front without a teammate’s help and claimed his 14th career stage of the event.
“It just got a little hectic and messy at the end,” said Farrar. “We ended up getting a little boxed on the right side, so unfortunately it didn’t work out. It was frustrating, but that’s part of the game in sprinting sometimes.”
Farrar finished the Tour de France for the fifth time last season, but he doesn’t yet know if he’ll return. He also doesn’t know the rest of his season’s itinerary or his future after his current contract concludes at season’s end.
But Farrar is certain about one aspect of his career. His days as a top sprinter are likely over.
“Nah, I doubt it,” Farrar said when asked he’s still looking for a win. “I am pretty content in my role now as the road captain and all that. It’s not a job that you swap back and forth from being a sprinter and a road captain. It’s two different things, the way you ride in the races, the way you train to prepare for the races.
“I like helping Cav and some of the young guys in other races, and I’ll continue to do. Even if I go to smaller races and Cav’s not there, I’ll prefer now to set up the young guys.”