The circus that is the Tour de France is about to be underway in Monaco, and there will be a new rider keen to be showing himself in the bunch sprints: Garmin-Slipstream's Tyler Farrar. The 25-year-old from Wenatchee, Washington will embark on his first Tour start on Saturday, but will be revisiting some familiar roads around Monaco.
"I actually lived in Beausoleil during the first year of my pro career in Europe, so it's good to come back. I haven't been here for three years - and it's nice to see my old training roads and the places where I used to hang out a lot," Farrar told Cyclingnews.
The promising young sprinter is excited to get started in the "big show", and is feeling well-prepared for the race and for the hype that surrounds it, especially after having gotten his first Grand Tour start in this year's Giro under his belt.
"The Giro was nice preparation both physically and for all the other stuff that goes along with the Grand Tours. But the Tour is different - there's nothing else that really compares with the circus that goes along with it - it's interesting to be here, that's for sure."
Farrar has made steady progress in the very specialized arena of road sprinting. He took his first professional win in 2007 while riding for Cofidis, and steadily worked his way into consistent top 10 finishes after joining the Garmin team last year. Earlier this year, he achieved something very few people have been able to do over the past two years: he beat Mark Cavendish in a bunch sprint on stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico in March.
But unlike his British rival, Farrar is polite to a fault and refuses to rise to journalists' bait and engage in any pre-race smack-talk. When asked if he thought he could repeat that win over Cavendish, Farrar would only say that he is feeling confident in his condition.
"I came off the Giro pretty well. Had a good month in between - I won a few races and got some really solid training to get ready. It'll just be a matter of getting into the race and trying to make it happen."
With Friday's decision by the French court to allow Quick Step's Tom Boonen into the race, Farrar has another rival to be concerned with. But, he said, it doesn't change his strategy.
"He's a really good sprinter with a strong team, so it might be another team that contributes to controlling breaks to make the bunch sprints happen, and do the lead-out. But it doesn't change too much. There are a lot of good sprinters here."
Farrar runs the sprints like a freelancer - able to adapt to the situation and take his best shot in any type of finish. We saw him in the Giro taking second in a tough uphill sprint to Alessandro Petacchi on stage 3 of the Giro when Cavendish was kept out of the sprint because of a crash. Then, Farrar took third to Cavendish and Davis in the Milan stage and then second again, this time to Cavendish, on the blisteringly fast finish on stage 11.
What kind of sprint does he need to bag his first Grand Tour stage? "It doesn't have to be anything special: there will be several opportunities to go for the bunch kicks and I'll have a crack at it every time. It'll come down to Julian Dean and I really putting it together for the positioning. If I'm there with open road at 200m I can have a good shot at it."
Farrar may have a little bit more help in the bunch sprints since the team added Dutch rider Martijn Maaskant to the roster to replace climber Dan Martin.
"It's a pity we lost Dan to the knee injury - it's unfortunate for him, I'm sure he was really excited about riding the Tour, and he would have been really strong in the mountains.
"Martijn is another great guy who can really roll on the flats and will definitely beef up our lead-out train a bit."