This time there was no frustration for Tyler Farrar, just acceptance. At Dwars door Vlaanderen a fortnight ago, the Garmin-Sharp man was left to rue Niki Terpstra’s late escape when he led the chasing the peloton home, but at Scheldeprijs on Wednesday, there was simply nothing to be done against Marcel Kittel’s powerful sprint finish.
Farrar won Scheldeprijs in 2010 and is intimately familiar with the lightly curving finishing straight in Schoten. He was well aware, too, that Kittel was the man to follow in the finale, and he duly latched on to the German’s rear wheel as the sprint began. Yet once Kittel opened the throttle, he was seemingly in a race all of his own, and he beat Farrar by two bike lengths.
"It was incredible. Naturally as a sprinter, I would prefer to win, I always try to win, but it wasn’t exactly a photo finish today, so I think I have to be happy with second place," Farrar said admiringly after descending from the podium. "I mean, there was no touching him."
Kittel’s victory was his third straight success at Scheldeprijs, the so-called unofficial world championship of sprinters, and while neither Mark Cavendish nor André Greipel were on hand – due to illness and injury, respectively – it’s hard to quibble with his status as the current standard bearer.
"He’s been the top sprinter in the world for the last year, year and a half, without a question," Farrar said. "He’s certainly the man to beat but it’s like you always say, he’s still human. Everyone has good days and bad days. It’s not that he’s unbeatable, he’s just very hard to beat."
Indeed, while Kittel was the prohibitive favourite for victory, Farrar and the other fast men certainly did not line up in Antwerp entirely devoid of hope. Just last week, after all, Kittel had contrived to get boxed in at successive sprints at the Three Days of De Panne, and the technical finishing circuit in Schoten is not easily tamed by even the most cohesive of sprint trains.
On Wednesday, however, Giant-Shimano found an ally of circumstance in Omega Pharma-QuickStep, and between them, they brought high-speed order to a traditionally fraught finale.
"It was a drag race, basically, between those two teams, which we knew it would be, because they’re the top lead-out teams," said Farrar, who credited David Millar for placing him at the business end of the peloton in the closing kilometres.
"It’s kind of funny. It’s been such a crazy spring with crashes and this is the race with the worst reputation of all, but I think it was the safest race of everything. It was so fast that it was really strung out and it’s always safer that way."
While Farrar was never able to get on terms with Kittel in the bunch sprint, he did fend off Danny van Poppel (Trek), Alessandro Petacchi (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Sam Bennett (NetApp-Endura) to take second place in a Belgian semi-classic for the second time this spring. A crash in the closing kilometres of Gent-Wevelgem denied him the chance to sprint for top honours there, but considering his travails this time twelve months ago, he acknowledged that his spring campaign has been a successful one.
"I’m happy with my spring. I made the spring classics one of my top objectives and all winter I was super focused," he said. "I approached my race calendar a little differently this year to years past and I think it’s really paid off. If you look across the last three weeks as a whole, I’ve met or exceeded my goals for the spring."