Budding Belgian classics star Nick Nuyens says he’ll miss the steady presence of American Tyler Farrar as he enters the 2008 season.
Farrar was one of Nuyens’ right-hand men at Cofidis last year as the Belgian moved into the role as team captain for the French team’s classics push. With Farrar donning argyle this season at Slipstream-Chipotle, Nuyens said the team will notice his absence.
“Tyler was great on the team last year. He was always there to help me and he really wanted to learn,” Nuyens told VeloNews. “We’ll miss him this year, for sure. He’s a strong rider with a big future. We wanted to keep him at Cofidis. Everyone knows he can win classics in the next few years.”
The 27-year-old Nuyens is optimistic about the 2008 campaign and hopes to enjoy a breakthrough victory in his second season as designated team leader. Last year, he switched from classics powerhouse QuickStep to Cofidis to rejuvenate the French squad’s classics program.
“At QuickStep, I had Boonen, Pozzato and Bettini ahead of me, so it was hard to find chances to ride as the team leader in the classics,” said Nuyens, who won Het Volk in 2005 and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in 2006. “Cofidis wanted to revamp its classics program. It’s worked out perfect for everyone. They’re really supporting me with a strong team.”
While Nuyens didn’t score a major scalp last year, he was consistent in his first season as team captain with wins at Etoile de Bessèges and a stage victory at the Eneco Tour along with seventh at Tour of Flanders and second at Brabantse Pijl.
“It was a good season. I was always close. I didn’t have that one big win, but in the classics, it’s never easy,” Nuyens said. “I learned a lot. I’m a year stronger and smarter. Plus, we have (Frank) Hoy back from injury and Rik (Verbruggen) is helping now in the classics. We have a strong team even without Tyler.”
Nuyens is skipping defending during his title in this week’s Bessèges after racing last week in Qatar and will regroup for an ambitious run at this year’s classics calendar.
“I will do all the northern classics plus Liège and maybe race the Giro. I won’t go to the Tour this year. Instead, I would like to try for the world championships,” he said. “I know I have the capacity to win one of the monuments this year. That’s what we’re all working for.”
Farrar, meanwhile, will be lining up against his ex-captain this year as an integral part of Slipstream-Chipotle’s classics effort.
Farrar – who got the 2008 season off to a winning start last weekend with two stage victories at the Tour of the Bahamas – is slated to race the Tour of California before heading to Europe to race in the classic openers at Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in early March.