Mark Cavendish’s spectacular strike rate in bunch gallops shows that he is the number one sprinter in the world, but Garmin-Transitions' directeur sportif Johnny Weltz believes that Tyler Farrar will be able to mount a strong challenge to Cavendish's dominance in 2010.
Farrar took his first-ever Grand Tour victory in September when he won stage eleven of the Vuelta a España, and is coming off his most successful season ever. He also scooped the Vattenfall Cyclassics, three stages in the Eneco Tour, stage three in Tirreno Adriatico (where he beat Cavendish to the line), two stages plus the overall in the Circuit Franco Belge, and a stage plus the overall in the Delta Tour Zeeland. Given that he took just one win in 2008, it’s little wonder that his confidence and reputation are on the up.
“Tyler has really come around,” Weltz told Cyclingnews at Wednesday’s Vuelta launch. “We knew that he had the potential, but it was just the moment for it to happen. I do think that he has the speed to beat Mark.”
Weltz went on to suggest that it will be in the more difficult races where the advantage should be gained. “If you look at the difference in Tyler, between the beginning and the end of the year, he is much leaner and stronger, and is climbing very well. He is perhaps not quite as snappy as Cavendish, but he is stronger [all round]. And I think he can get even stronger again.”
Other riders also expected to succeed:
The same overall progress is expected from the rest of the team. It had gained the reputation of being something of an eternal bridesmaid due to a huge number of runner-up slots in races, but Tom Danielson’s stage victory in the Vuelta a Burgos and Farrar’s Vattenfall Cyclassics triumph opened the floodgates.
Between Danielson’s win and the end of the season, the team clocked up a total of 21 victories, almost three times as much as it had taken beforehand. It was a notable turnaround, showing that when it comes to pressure and confidence, success breeds success.
David Millar suggested as much when asked about this at the Vuelta a España. “It is an odd thing in sport,” he said after he won the final Vuelta time trial, the team’s third stage win of the race. “Sometimes it is just a question of mojo. When Tyler won, I think we had four or five wins in the space of the week. That is very unlike us..so, yes, I think it has changed some certain things.
“I think Ryder’s [Hesjedal] victory was enormous. That was great to see and he is becoming a great rider. The team is changing, we are growing. We are only two years old…in fact, we are not even two years at this level. So it is normal that we are taking steps and getting bigger and bigger.”
Three months on, Weltz emphasises this point. “You have to remember that we are such a young team. We have come so far in such a short time, so it is kind of natural that we keep modifying things and making them better. I think everybody is finding their particular strength and where we can get the maximum benefit from that.”
Garmin-Transitions recently lost Bradley Wiggins to Sky, the Briton breaking a two year contract to move. That was a blow to the squad, but Weltz feels that the team can look forward to a strong 2010 regardless.
“I think we have a team that is broader than it was in previous years,” he said. “Every year we refine the team a little better and then get reinforcements in the places where maybe we were not strong enough. I think that next year we will really have a team where every single rider has a big potential…we can count on having much greater strength in depth than before.”