Having won two stages at the 2010 renewal of the race, the following year's Giro d'Italia was supposed to offer further evidence of Tyler Farrar's rise to the top of world sprinting. Instead, the 2011 race was marred by the tragic death of Farrar's friend and training partner Wouter Weylandt, who died after a crash in the third stage.
Belgium's Weylandt was killed instantly after being thrown 10 metres from his bike and landing face down. The following day Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda) and Weylandt's Leopard Trek teammates rode in stage four as a mark of respect, before pulling out of the race. Farrar bases himself in Belgium and spent countless hours on the road training with Weylandt, whose race number 108 from last year will not be worn by any of this year's riders as a mark of respect.
As he returns to the Giro d'Italia today, his friend isn't far from his mind. Farrar is all too aware of the dangers of the sport - his father is paralyzed from the waist down after being knocked off his bike by a car several years ago.
"What happened in the Giro was pretty horrible," the 27-year-old American told The Seattle Times. "It was a rough time. That kind of thing doesn't go away. I don't think it ever completely goes away. But cycling is my life, my job, and even though it happened, I still love the sport. I still love racing my bike.
"It was painful. There's no denying that, but that's life. You know, it's not nice. It's not the way anyone wants it to happen, but you don't have a say in it sometimes. You have to roll with the punches. You have to work through the hard to get to the good."
"Cycling has certainly taken some things away from me in my life, but it's also given me a lot. There's been rough moments, and moments where it wasn't my favorite thing in the world, but in the global picture, it's given me the life I have. I've wanted to be a professional cyclist since I was about 14 years old. You just have to deal with the hard part."