American sprinter Tyler Farrar has known Thor Hushovd for years as a competitor and rival, but with the addition of seven Cervélo TestTeam riders, including Hushovd, to the Slipstream organization to form Garmin-Cervélo, the recently concluded training camp on Grand Cayman provided the first opportunity for the pair to bond as teammates.
While one of the hot topics for conversation during the off-season has been speculation about potential tension between the two world-class sprinters, at the conclusion of the Grand Cayman camp Farrar told Cyclingnews that won't be an issue in the upcoming season.
"Everyone's always said, 'What's going to happen? What's going to happen?', but I was never that worried that there was going to be this disaster or a feud within the team," said Farrar. "Thor and I were laughing about that the other day. We talked about things quite a bit and we're both really reasonable guys. It's going to be different coming from a situation where we were both undisputed leaders to a team where there's two of us, or even a third with Heinrich [Haussler].
"It's going to be something we both have to adapt to - taking two closely knit teams and turning them into one. That's what we have to do as professionals if we want to win races. This [camp] has been a great way to get that ball rolling and to start making those connections to be close knit as a single team just the way we were and Cervélo was last season."
The 11 new riders brought into the Garmin-Cervélo squad will provide additional depth and versatility, enabling Farrar and Hushovd to vie for victories at concurrent races on the calendar, or coalesce into a single, deeply talented line-up to deliver the Monument and Tour de France stage absent from the Slipstream Sports organization's palmares.
"The beauty of this merger is we have so many riders who are similar and can win races at the highest level. We're going to be able to run a double or even triple program for large chunks of the season and have incredibly competitive teams in every race that we're in," said Farrar.
Farrar's leadout duties have been handled by Julian Dean, Murilo Fischer, David Millar and Martijn Maaskant while Thor Hushovd brings Brett Lancaster to the table. While Farrar and Hushovd have a proven track record of success with their respective supporting casts, don't be surprised to see some new combinations, particularly in events such as the Spring Classics and Tour de France when Farrar and Hushovd will be on the same roster.
"We have some really good leadout riders and they have some really good leadout riders so at some races maybe I'll do it with two of my normal leadout riders from last year and two of the guys coming across from Cervélo. Thor might have the same. The big goal and the reason that we came together to do this camp is the mentality that we're one unit, we're not separate units or separate cliques on the team. Part of that is not staying on the same race programme either, you mix and match. We want to take the best riders possible to win whatever race we're targeting.
"I think at the end of the day, if we do it right and really come together, some days I'm going to work for Thor and some days Thor's going to work for me. That's the way we'll win more races than we ever would separately. We have one of the strongest teams in the world when it comes to sprinting and the Classics. If we meld it together well and create one cohesive unit I think we're going to be unstoppable."
On track for Down Under debut
For the first time in his career Farrar will be opening his upcoming season at Australia's Santos Tour Down Under, January 16-23, where he'll face off against sprint rivals such as Mark Cavendish, André Greipel, Greg Henderson, Graeme Brown and Francesco Chicchi.
"When you take so many big names that sets the stage for big battles. The other side of it is that it's January and we have to be realistic about where our objectives lie. You want to be good and racing for the win at the Tour Down Under but you want to be at 100 percent top form in the first two weeks of April for Flanders and Roubaix. You definitely have to find a balance with that," said Farrar.
"I've never raced that early in the season in my life, so we'll see. It's a bit of an experiment as far as preparing for the season and which prep races I prefer to do. I've tried different recipes for the past few seasons and I'm trying to dial in which one I think is the very best."
An ingredient in the upcoming season's new recipe will be a stint of track racing in Canada at the Burnaby 4 taking place December 27-30 at Burnaby, British Columbia. Farrar is no stranger to the track, having won multiple national titles as a Junior followed by several years of World Cup racing early on in the Elite ranks.
"When the team told me I'm riding the Tour Down Under I had to do something to be fit," said Farrar. "If you're starting racing a few weeks later you can use our January training camp [in Calpe, Spain] to get that first big hit of intensity to get the body moving for racing. I won't have that, the Tour Down Under is going to be that first really hard thing. The track race is a good opportunity to add in a bit of intensity and blow the legs out.
"I lived up in Bellingham, Washington, which is less than an hour from Burnaby, for three years while my girlfriend went to the university there. I spent lots of time up at Burnaby in the winter training on the track and I've done Burnaby when it was a Six Day three or four years ago. I know the guys that organize it and I think it's a really good time."
And while Farrar calls Gent, Belgium home these days, don't expect him to light up the boards of the Kuipke velodrome for the legendary Gent Six Day anytime soon.
"I love track racing and I love the whole culture of the Six Day circuit. Racing as much as I do on the road I don't know how I could turn around and race all winter on the track.
"There are plenty of times that bigger road riders would pop in for one or two Six Days in the winter. Someone like [Danilo] Hondo has a lot more experience on the track than I do. I think he can jump in at that level and be ok, whereas I'm not ready to say 'Oh yeah, I'm going to do one Six Day this year and it will be Gent!'. To race the Gent Six Day, that's the pinnacle of Six Day racing. As much as I'd love to since that's where I live, I'm more likely to be there watching as a fan."