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Prior to Tyler Farrar’s win at the G.P. Scheldeprijs on Wednesday, VeloNews had a seat in the Garmin-Transitions car riding along with the team’s director, Australian Matt White. Over the squawk of race radio we talked about the team’s squad for Paris-Roubaix, Farrar’s development as a world-class sprinter, and White’s role in developing a pipeline for Australian riders to enter the ProTour ranks. Here’s a listen.
VeloNews: Did you ever compete in this race (G.P. Scheldeprijs) as a professional?
Matt White: Nope, this was actually my first time to Antwerp. Nice city.
VN: How do you rate the team’s performance over the past week — going back first to Three Days of De Panne and then to the Tour of Flanders?
MW: Well obviously we couldn’t be happier with De Panne. We won the overall, and had a stage win for David Millar and a stage win for Tyler Farrar. It was a good way to prepare for Flanders. Dave had a good ride at Flanders and was a bit unlucky to not come away with any results for himself, but once he was caught he jumped in and helped out and led Tyler to a fifth-place finish. I couldn’t be happier with how Flanders went; Tyler was the best of the rest, winning the bunch sprint, and Dave figured in the crucial parts of the race.
VN: Before the race you said Martijn Maaskant and Johan Van Summeren were the team’s cards to play.
MW: It’s always good to have a bit of depth. When you’re looking at the form after De Panne, Tyler was always going to be there, it was a matter of just how big of a group would he be sprinting against. Last year it was sprinting for third, this year it was sprinting for fifth.
VN: The team took some lumps during the race — Martijn, Tyler, Svein Tuft and Steven Cozza all hit the deck. What were the injuries like?
MW: Yeah, we had a few guys touch down. Martijn hit a crack in the middle of the road while he was talking to the team car and lost control; he took three stitches to his elbow. Tyler went crashed twice, the second time into the back of a car, and thought about throwing in the towel. Svein crashed and had a concussion. Cozza … I’m not sure what happened with him, but it wasn’t too bad. But yeah, half of our original Paris-Roubaix team is gone. Matt Wilson has some fractured ribs from Ghent-Wevelgem. He didn’t know they were fractured until he hit the cobbles at Flanders. He went home and trained on good roads and didn’t know he’d broken his ribs until he hit the cobbles and everything locked up and he started having trouble breathing. Robbie Hunter has an Achilles’ problem. Murillo Fischer crashed at Milan-San Remo and broke his collarbone. And Svein has a concussion.
VN: Svein also crashed and hit his head at the Amgen Tour of California last year and had recurring headaches and dizziness. How much of a concern was this concussion?
MW: I think he’s okay. Of course every time a rider hits his head it’s a concern. For now we’ll just play it week by week.
VN: So which riders were called up for Roubaix?
MW: Danny Pate, Ricardo van der Velde and Julian — he wasn’t originally doing it.
VN: Ricardo van der Velde? He’s pretty young (23), and he’s pretty light (6-foot, 148 pounds).
MW: Yeah, that’s true, but he was also the Dutch national (junior) cyclocross champion. He won’t have any problem with the cobbles. He rode Ghent-Wevelgem with us, and he got through it. He’s only done four competition days with us this year, so he needs to race.
VN: I always thought of Matt Wilson as more of a stage racer.
MW: Nah, he can do anything. He’s ridden Paris-Roubaix five times.
VN: And Tyler’s okay? After Flanders he said he expected he’d be hurting pretty badly the next day.
MW: He’s fine. He crashed twice but he’s fine. The second time he didn’t think he would make it back to the bunch. He told the mechanic to put his bike on the rack. I said ‘What are you thinking man?’ It wasn’t a hard part of the race, and he was able to get back on. I think he feels more recovered now than he did after De Panne.
VN: So the team’s hopes still lie with Martijn and Johan for Roubaix?
MW: I think Millar and Tyler will be good for Roubaix. I expect all four guys to be in the mix Sunday. How much in the mix, time will tell.
VN: What did you think about Fabian’s ride at Flanders?
MW: Yeah, that was one of the most impressive rides I’ve seen in a while at Flanders, certainly in this current generation. He clearly had more left in the tank than Boonen, and was putting time into a 15-man chase group. He was a well-deserved winner.
VN: Were you surprised to see the two big favorites get away on the Molenberg like that?
MW: No one could react. If you aren’t on the wheel with those guys, good luck trying to get them back. I don’t think it will be too different this weekend. Flanders is a different, challenging course, but I think it will come down at Roubaix to when those guys go. And unless you are on the wheel, they’re gone. Paris-Roubaix is a different style of race — being on the wheel helps more, and some guys ride the cobbles better than others at races like Paris-Roubaix. And you can have a lot more bad luck at Paris-Roubaix.
VN: What about Filippo Pozzato? He’ll be back and should still be on good form.
MW: I expect Pozatto to be there, which is good for Boonen. Look at the ride Pozatto did at the E3 Prijs; he chased Boonen and Cancellara for 20km and held them at 20 seconds.
VN: When will we see your young Australian talent racing in Europe?
MW: Jack Bobridge and Travis Meyer start racing next week in Belgium. Cam Meyer is going to start with Liege-Bastogne-Liege. That’s not an easy one to start with. It’s one of the hardest one-day races on the calendar.
VN: At the world track championships last month, Cameron Meyer won three gold medals, in the points race, team pursuit and Madison. For those who don’t fully appreciate track racing, after just how big of a talent is he?
MW: Well, at the age of 22 he’s pretty much achieved all that you can on the track, at least at the worlds. He can’t do all that at the Olympics because they’ve taken so many events away. He’s spent the last three months on the track, now he can focus on the road. He’ll race the Giro with us.
VN: So you see him developing into a stage racer?
MW: Oh he’s definitely a GC rider. He can time trial and climb, and he’s very consistent. We’re definitely grooming him into a GC rider. He was already third overall at the Tour of Oman this year, behind Boason Hagen and Cancellara. Whether he’s the kind of guy that can win a stage race in Switzerland, France or Italy, who knows? He’s a special guy. At worlds, he won the points race not as sprinter, he just wins by being the most aggressive. He took a lap on the bunch with four guys, rested, then took another lap on his own.
VN: We all know that Fly V Australia wants to be the first Australian ProTour team, but for now, Garmin has the Australian talent pipeline.
MW: Yeah sure, obviously we’re further down the track than Fly V, and all the young kids want to be involved with a ProTour team. And we’ve got an agreement with Australian Cycling; I look after the guys, and they’re free to go back to their track commitments whenever they need to.
VN: May is important month for the team, with the Giro d’Italia and the Amgen Tour of California. What are the team’s goals at the Giro?
MW: To put Tyler in the leader’s jersey. Also to win the team time trial and some sprint stages. It starts with a prologue, which is probably better for a guy like David Millar or Bradley Wiggins, but Tyler can ride a pretty strong prologue. Then there are some sprints, the team time trial, and some more sprints. If Tyler can win a stage, and we can win the team time trial, it should put him in the jersey.
VN: And what about for California?
MW: Dave Zabriskie, for the GC. A podium for Dave at California is very realistic.
VN: Which riders are assured for which races?
MW: Ryder Hesjedal, Tom Danielson and Dave Zabriskie for California; Millar, Tyler and Christian Vande Velde for the Giro.
VN: How has Tyler’s confidence changed over the past year?
MW: Yeah, it’s really been about that long, since he took that win against Mark Cavendish at Tirreno-Adriatico. Twelve months ago he was a different athlete. I think the relationship with him and Julian has been a big part of it. He’s been coming up against the fastest men in the world. This year has been kind of a weird start, there have not been too many normal sprints; there’s always a finish circuit with a climb, or there hasn’t been a whole field at the final, besides Qatar and Oman. But Tyler has been super consistent, he’s just not been involved in some sprints, or he’s run second or third. I think with Het Volk, Flanders and Ghent-Wevelgem he’s shown he’s one of the fittest sprinters around. I think going into the Giro and the Tour with Julian, and more than likely with Robbie Hunter — he should be back in action for Romandie — it should be a good group we’ve got together.
VN: Any other news coming out of this year’s squad?
MW: One of the biggest revelations has been Michel Kreder. He was seventh at the Vuelta Catalunya, and third at the GP Miguel Indurain. That was a very impressive ride for 21-year old. It seems like at every race he’s bopping around places everywhere. He was the best young rider at Haut Var. He came from the Rabobank Pro Continental team. His younger brother rides for our U23 team. He’s a special one — he can climb, but he’s quite fast for a little guy.