Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) was one of the worst affected in the crash-strewn opening week of the Tour de France but in spite of his travails on the first mountain stages of the race, the American sprinter is looking to manage his injuries and continue to Paris.
Farrar hit the deck three times in as many days last week. The crash at Saint-Quentin that ruined his chances of contesting the sprint and saw him in an atypically angry confrontation with Tom Veelers (Argos-Shimano) grabbed the headlines, but it was his fall the following day on the road to Metz that hit the hardest.
"The last of the three was the worst of them," Farrar told Cyclingnews. "That one messed me up pretty well. It was touch and go for a couple of days if I was going to continue but it’s slowly getting better and I think I’m slowly working my way back into the race."
Farrar’s worst moment would come the following day on the road to La Planche des Belles Filles. While first his own Garmin-Sharp team and then Sky set a relentless tempo on the approach to the final climb, Farrar was left dangling off the back of the peloton. "That was by far the lowest point," Farrar said. "It wasn’t even an issue of the speed in the peloton, it was that my back was destroyed that day.
"We actually went straight to the hospital after the stage and had some CT scans to make sure I hadn’t broken something in the crashes, because if I had I would have stopped. Luckily it showed that it was all clear and that it was just muscle damage, so I can grit my teeth and fight through that."
Straining to stay in contact with the peloton is as much a mental challenge as a physical one, and Farrar admitted that were it not the Tour, he would already have packed his suitcase and headed for home.
"It wasn’t that I was riding as hard as I could, it was that my body was incapable of riding hard so it just becomes more of a mental game than a physical game at that point," he said of weekend. "You just have to remind yourself that this is the Tour. I’ll be honest - with the crashes I had, if this wasn’t the Tour, I wouldn’t still be here, but the Tour is something special.
"This year at Garmin we had more than nine riders who were good enough and deserved a spot on our team. So I reminded myself that there were guys sitting at home who hadn’t been given the chance, so I needed to stick it out as long as I could."
Mercifully, Farrar was able to use Monday’s Besançon time trial as something of a recovery day - "although I had to move the pads on my aero-bars around a little bit to avoid the various wounds," he explained - and after the rest day on Tuesday, he was hopeful that his Tour had turned a corner.
Farrar finished safely in the autobus on the first day in the high mountains, and lies one place ahead of Lanterne Rouge Jimmy Engoulvent (Saur-Sojasun), determined to give a different slant to his Tour over the coming ten days.
"As a team we had a pretty disastrous first week and we’ve had to sit down and re-evaluate," he said. "Some of the goals we had coming into the Tour are gone. We don’t have a GC rider anymore. The team GC is gone. We’ve had to change a bit but we still have guys who can go in breaks and try for stage wins. And I would like to think that by the time the next sprint stage rolls around I’ll be able to actually take a crack at it again."
Without an individual win since stage three of last year’s Tour, however, Farrar is aware that his chances to break his duck in the remainder of this race are thin on the ground. Indeed, that win in Redon apart, Farrar has enjoyed precious little luck in his Tour career.
"That’s just sport," he shrugged. "I would love to have things go a little better in the second half of the Tour."