Tyler Farrar was a popular winner of the opening stage at the USA Pro Challenge and his victory couldn't have provided a better start to Garmin-Sharp's campaign in their home state of Colorado. Not only did Farrar claim his first victory since July 4, 2011, when he earned his first and only Tour de France stage win, but the 28-year-old sprinter also picked up the leader's jersey and the sprint classification jersey at the conclusion of a strenuous, mountainous 202.1km day of racing from Durango to Telluride.
Farrar's recent stint stateside to the Tour of Utah and now the USA Pro Challenge wasn't originally on his program, and Garmin-Sharp's strategy today featured very aggressive racing by their GC threats Tom Danielson and Peter Stetina, but when Danielson's and Stetina's near stage-long escape came to naught in the closing kilometres Farrar was there to capitalize on a sprint finale. And with that, a disastrous season characterized by crashes and near misses has been put to right.
"It's been a really rough year as far as crashes go, the last few months have been disastrous," said Farrar. "It really means a lot to me to finally get something positive and moving in the right direction again. Obviously, as a sprinter, we're very much judged for our wins - seconds, thirds, fourths don't count.
"During the Tour I had a sit-down with [Garmin-Sharp directeur sportif] Allan Peiper and we were just talking about the race programme and the end of the season. He threw it out there, 'do you want to go back to do Utah and Colorado? They're not really races for you but it might be fun for you to go back and race in the States a little bit' and I said 'why not?'"
"Today, personally, I knew there was a chance of a sprint but we weren't riding for a sprint," said Farrar. "Our goal was to try and catch guys napping and get guys like Tom [Danielson] and Pete [Stetina] up to the road to take time on GC. I was kind of lucky that I was able to hang on and salvage it in the sprint in the end when they got caught."
Garmin-Sharp's directeur sportif in Colorado, Charlie Wegelius, was quick to praise Farrar for removing the proverbial monkey off his back, as did teammate and USA Pro Challenge GC contender Christian Vande Velde.
"Tyler really needed that," Wegelius told Cyclingnews. "He's been smacked down so many times this year and he never gave up, and he's still here trying. This isn't a stage that's really perfectly adapted to him, but it's fantastic."
"A lot of people don't understand how rough of a year Tyler's had already," Vande Velde told Cyclingnews. "He's spent half the year on the ground. He's been coming close but still far away, so for him to win on a day like today with 10,000 feet of climbing - such a hard day and back on US soil - it's awesome."
Farrar will start tomorrow's 159.6km stage from Montrose to Crested Butte tomorrow in the leader's jersey, but how long does he expect to hold on to it?
"Until about a K to go tomorrow," quipped Farrar, in reference to the steep closing kilometres to Mt. Crested Butte. "You have to be realistic, I'm not a climber. I've never done this finish in Crested Butte but I understand it's nasty. I don't see myself hanging on to it, but I'll certainly try. There's guys that go uphill a lot faster than I do."
And based on today's spirited racing in the mountains from Farrar's teammates, the jersey may very well stay within the family tomorrow.
Pat Malach contributed to this report.