American targets Gent-Wevelgem
When Tyler Farrar descended from the podium after Dwars door Vlaanderen, he beckoned the small group of waiting reporters to follow him into the tent next to the rostrum rather than stand on ceremony outside. "I'm covered in champagne, I needed to go somewhere warm to dry off," he explained apologetically.
Once Farrar had lowered himself into his seat inside, the obvious opening question was whether his glass was half-full or half-empty after winning the sprint for second place, 17 seconds behind Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) in Waregem.
On crossing the finishing line, the Garmin-Sharp man had slammed his handlebars in frustration, disappointed that the large chasing group had failed to peg back Terpstra in the finale. Half an hour after the event – and after experiencing Terpstra's exuberant celebration first hand – Farrar could only smile ruefully as he reflected on the riot of emotions such a result inevitably brings.
"It's always something special to be on the podium in the classics and it's really not a bad result but at the same time I'm a bit heartbroken," Farrar said, who pointed out that it was his second near miss at Dwars door Vlaanderen after he finished third behind Nick Nuyens in 2011.
"Three years ago we just caught them in the sprint and I was third. This time I was second, and again the winner was just in front of me. It's hard but at the same time it’s a nice result for me."
Victory for Farrar would have seen him rival another American visitor to Waregem on Wednesday, President Barack Obama, for column inches in the morning newspapers. In spite of his initial dismay at the result, he will surely hope that his performance can mark something of a turning point after a difficult few years, which culminated with Garmin's indecision over renewing his contract at the end of last season.
"I really suffered last spring because I'm not really a rider for the extreme cold so last year was not so nice for me," Farrar said. "This year is a little better. I've really been focused this winter and really put everything on the Flemish classics. I even skipped Milan-San Remo just to focus for this and I think it’s working."
Even the late removal of the Pompeiana from the route of Milan-San Remo couldn't swerve the Ghent resident from his resolve to focus exclusively on the cobbled classics, and he felt that Wednesday’s result justified that decision.
"Certainly, the temptation was there but at the same time I knew today was one of the best of the races for me in the next three weeks," he said. "It wasn’t an easy decision and I didn't really want to watch the race last Sunday but now I'm happy I did it like that."
Dwars door Vlaanderen provides an early primer for the Tour of Flanders, with eleven hellingen on the menu, including the pairing that ultimately decides De Ronde, the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg. Although the main peloton swelled to 50 or so riders on the run-in to Waregem, Farrar was already well-placed at the sharp end when Terpstra launched his winning move once over the Paterberg.
"I was in the front group, I really had super legs today," Farrar said. "On the descent of the Paterberg, we caught what was left of the breakaway. I was right there. At first I thought this was really perfect, a small group, but then everything came back with 50 or 60 riders."
Once Terpstra went clear, there was a degree of confusion over whose responsibility it was to lead the chase, an argument made all the more nuanced by the presence of so many Omega Pharma-QuickStep riders in the main body of the peloton. The Dutchman took advantage of the hesitation to open a gap of 42 seconds with 15 kilometres still to race, more than enough to seal his second win in Waregem in three years.
"It's hard to get things organised at the end of a race like this," Farrar said. "Everyone’s in the red after all the climbs, but we got our guys together and chased hard, but unfortunately, Niki was just a bit too strong and he stayed away."
Farrar’s thoughts now turn to the pair of WorldTour races later in the week, and he is hopeful that his display in Waregem is something of a portent for Sunday's Gent-Wevelgem, which he described as a big target.
"Three years ago when I was third here I was also third in Gent-Wevelgem, so hopefully I can do something good on Sunday," he said. "The weather is looking good for the weekend, and that suits a rider like me because a sprint is more likely in those conditions."
Although Farrar's original disappointment had not quite subsided by the time he left Waregem, he at least approaches the rest of his classics campaign buoyed by the quality of his own performance. "Of course I would prefer to win but you have to enjoy second place in a classic too," he said, adding: “It’s a little bit of all the emotions at the moment."
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