By Shane Stokes
Tyler Farrar has achieved his goal of securing a ProTour contract for 2006 with the news that he will line out it the colours of the Cofidis squad next season. Farrar is seen as one of the most promising young US riders, with a stage win in last year's Tour de L'Avenir to his credit, as well as national under 23 titles in the 2004 criterium and time trial championships.
In addition to competing on the North American circuit with Health Net, Farrar has raced with the US national team in Belgium for several seasons. This year he won the Trofee van Haspengouw and the Challenge de Hesbaye, as well as stage 4 of the Ronde de l'Isard d'Ariege in France. These results attracted the attention of several teams, with Discovery Channel amongst those believed to have courted the young American for his signature. But it was the long-term interest shown in him by the French team which secured his decision.
"I talked to a few teams. In the end, I weighed up my options and felt that for me, Cofidis was the best place to go," he told Cyclingnews. "I have been talking to them on and off since last fall. They made contact after I won the stage at the Tour de l'Avenir last year and just kept in touch through the winter. I had a pretty good spring over in Europe, so they decided that they wanted to give me a shot.
"They have really shown an interest in me and checked on me throughout the winter, asking me how the preparations were going and other things. So that really made me feel good. They were looking at me for the team for some time, and I just feel it is the best match for me."
A strong sprinter and time trialist, Farrar is seen by some as a rider in the mould of George Hincapie. However, in the past he has named another rouleur as an inspiration - Stuart O'Grady - and he is set to join the Australian at Cofidis. He seems excited by the prospect.
"It is definitely cool. I have always looked up to Stuart O'Grady, since I started bike racing. So it will be really cool to be on the same team as him - that is kind of exciting.
At this point, Farrar's 2006 program has only been loosely sketched out but he has been told that he will ride some ProTour races as well as French Cup events. "They said that they are going to give me a good program for development. Hard pro races, but maybe not quite the biggest. I don't know the exact schedule yet but it should be pretty good.
"I am hoping to go over there next year and just do my job, whatever it’s going to be. I hope I am going to be there and help in the lead-outs for O'Grady, because I am a sprinter. So hopefully I can learn as much as I can for the first while, helping out wherever I can."
Before then, Farrar has some more targets he's chasing this season. He lines up in the US Pro criterium championships today as one of Health Net's protected riders, and will be aiming to improve on his second place of last year. The Tour de l'Avenir is another big goal, especially after his success there last year, while the profile of the world under 23 championships in Madrid should suit his talents. He is hoping to ride both the time trial and road race there.
Watch out for a full feature on Tyler Farrar in the next few days.