Stuck between the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix the fastest sprinters in the peloton head over to Antwerp, Belgium the Scheldeprijs. For Tyler Farrar (Dimension Data) it was the first time he would be trying to set up his former rival, now team leader Mark Cavendish in the expected bunch gallop in the Churchill boulevard in Schoten.
The absence of dedicated lead-out man Mark Renshaw, who crashed during the Tour of Flanders last Sunday, made Cavendish feel less comfortable to go for a classic lead-out. He told Farrar to flank him rather than lead him out.
“We lost Renshaw with his crash from Flanders. Cav and I... I haven’t really given him a real lead-out yet and this was a big goal so he was more comfortable coming off Kittel’s wheel. He just said: ‘try and shelter me on Kittel’s wheel as long as you can’. I was able to make it until the kite,” a rain-soaked Farrar said shortly after crossing the finish line in Schoten.
Cavendish ended up being well positioned on the wheel from Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) but he was unable to pass him before the line, finishing less than half a wheel behind the German winner.
“As a team I think we did a great race. What can you say. Photo finish. It’s painful but... I really believe in Cav, obviously. You can’t get any closer to winning than he did today. A photo finish between Cav and Kittel, and Greipel in third. It’s the titans of field sprinting.”
Mark Cavendish was asked about how it felt to have Farrar, his former sprint rival, in the team during his post-race interview in Schoten. “I love him being on the team. We laugh about it. If you’d asked us if we’d ever be teammates, we’d have said ‘No’. But we sat in a bar last November laughing about it. He’s a brilliant guy, he’s one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met. He’s such a good laugh and such a good guy and a great teammate,” Cavendish said.
Both Cavendish and Farrar will tackle the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix next Sunday. For most of the season Cavendish will be the team leader in races where they’re both at the start. Farrar morphed from a pure sprinter into a classics specialist and logically he’ll be one of the team’s leaders in Paris-Roubaix.
“The form’s good. It’s my period of the year. I hope to be good,” Farrar said, while pointing out that he was still recovering from his crash in the Tour of Flanders. “I crashed real hard in Flanders. I was really paying for it the last few days. Even the first half of the race today I was not in a happy place. Luckily things came around as I rode longer. I hope the body will continue to recover.”
The main question for many riders who’ll be taking the start in Compiègne on Sunday remains the weather. Also Farrar was wondering what the Paris-Roubaix course would be like, expecting his first wet Roubaix. “I guess we’re all going to see what a rainy Roubaix looks like. I don’t think anyone in the peloton has done a wet Roubaix before, not a truly wet one. Yesterday I looked and at least on my phone app, and it said rain. I’ll take sun.”