Invigoration is a prevalent theme when Tyler Farrar talks to Cyclingnews about his switch to the MTN-Qhubeka team. From spending just a little bit of time with Farrar there is little doubt that even before the season has begun the move has had a big impact on him. There were other options for the American but he couldn't resist the draw of the team. He is as eager as a neo-pro as he awaits his first race in the team colours and already looks at home in his new environment.
Farrar believes that the move to the African outfit could be just what he needs to kick-start his career. "I really feel a little bit invigorated by coming to a new team and a new environment," Farrar told Cyclingnews. "I am so excited for next year and it's been a really great week. If anything I'm almost more excited about what comes next week than I was before I came here.
"After seven years, you kind of slide into a role with a team and it's very easy to stay within your boundaries. Then you go to races and you do what you think you can do and don't do what you think you can't do. It is a bit of a challenge to step out of your comfort zone but I think that it is really good."
MTN-Qhubeka signed Farrar as they look to make history by becoming the first African-registered team to ride the Tour de France. In that quest, the team took on a substantial number of sprinters and the wisdom of such a decision has been questioned by many. However, despite spending most of their careers riding against each other, Farrar is confident that they can not only work together but they can contest the top WorldTour teams in the process.
"They did a really good job putting together our roster and not just looking at numbers and resumes but looking at personalities," he explained. "I've never been in a team with this much classics and sprinting depth. I think we're going to be able to play off each other. We each bring our own strengths and weaknesses to the table. It's going to take a few races to work out the kinks and I'm sure that we'll get it wrong a few times but once we get it sorted out I think that we will be a force to be reckoned with."
Leaving Garmin at the right time
The opportunity to join MTN-Qhubeka came at exactly the right time in Farrar's career. The American had spent the bulk of his career racing in the same team, joining Slipstream at the age of 24. During his time there, Farrar netted victories in all three of the Grand Tours. The results have tailed off in recent years but he still has fond memories of that time.
"I matured there as a rider. I look back on it as a positive thing," he said. "I was certainly happy there but I thought that it was time to get out and push myself and go out of my comfort zone a little bit. Now was the time to do it and this opportunity came along and it was exactly what I was looking for."
Now Farrar hopes that he can return the favour in his new team. "I certainly still have some experience to share at this point," he said to Cyclingnews. "It's a fun opportunity to share that knowledge. I remember being that rider and riding with Christian Vande Velde and Julian Dean, and everything I took from racing with them. It will be fun to be on the other side and actually give something to the young guys."
In it to win it
MTN-Qhubeka's main goal and Farrar's raison d'être is securing one of the four wildcard spots available at next year's Tour de France. The team missed out on the selection in 2014, making their first Grand Tour appearance at the Vuelta a España, and are one of the favourites to nab one of those illusive places. In 2015, the team will target the early season races in the Middle East and Farrar's favoured stomping ground at the Belgian cobbled classics.
Farrar knows that the early part of the year is the most important to ensure a great calendar for the remainder of the season. "The goal is to come out swinging from day one and to show what we're capable of. If that happens then the invitations will flow."
The heart of the MTN-Qhubeka team is the support it gives to the charity and racing the Tour de France is the best way to ensure the biggest publicity for it. Farrar says that the team are not going to arrive in Utrecht just to make up the numbers. "We're not just here to fill the pack out," he said.
"With the riders we have, we have guys that can fight for stage victories and fight for the green jersey, and if we're given the opportunity to go to France in July we'll play an incredibly active role in the race. That's what people can count on and if we're given a chance, we'll put on a show. Stage wins and battling for jerseys, that's not a pipe dream, we can do that."
Farrar also has a few of his own personal targets for next season as he hopes to find the top form that he had in 2010. "I have unfinished business at Dwars door Vlaanderen. I've been second and third there and I would really like to make that one last step onto the podium," said the 30-year-old. "I can say the same for Gent-Wevelgem. I've knocked on the door there a few times but I haven't won. That would be a dream to win Gent-Wevelgem."