Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo) was left isolated in the finale of Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday but secured a podium place by finishing third behind Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Daniele Bennati (Leopard Trek), who was also at the end without any teammates.
Farrar came into the race having selected it as one of his biggest goals for the season. He positioned himself well on each short bergs, but on the second ascent of the Kemmelberg found himself with just one teammate, world champion Thor Hushovd, for support.
With the climbs dispatched with and 30 kilometres left to race, it looked a certainty that Hushovd would lead Farrar out in the sprint - a tactic that worked to perfection in on stage 2 of Tirreno-Adriatico earlier this month.
However, a crash involving Hushovd and Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) ruled out Farrar's best plan and he was forced to ride for himself as first the peloton caught an four-man group in the final kilometre, and then in the hotly contested sprint.
"It came to the sprint, which is what I hoped for, but I was isolated in the finish which was a pity because I had really good legs," Farrar told Cyclingnews at the finish.
Hushovd's absence meant Farrar was forced to fight for himself, while Boonen was able to rely on five teammates.
"I had to come from a little too far behind and had to waste a lot of energy to fight for position. I was fighting to get on Boonen's wheel, but I had to use a lot of my strength to do it."
As Farrar made his way to the podium, Hushovd crossed the line and made an instant beeline for the Garmin-Cervelo team bus. He had already raced E3 Prijs Vlaanderen yesterday but told Cyclingnews that his legs felt strong enough to race back-to-back days.
"We talked about the finish before when we were on the bus and I wanted to be there in the end to help Tyler. It was a hard day but I felt good. It's just a shame that my race was over after the crash."
Back at the bus Peter van Petegem - a recent addition to the team's management - was philosophical about the team's performances but said that they lacked the firepower they'd shown in E3, where despite Fabian Cancellara's (Leopard Trek) dominance, they were one of the most aggressive teams.
"The riders from yesterday were a little bit tired. The start wasn't too hard, but once they hit the Kemmelberg it was just Tyler and Thor who were in the front," he said.
"Tyler was our sprinter to do something today but the big crash meant we lost Hushovd."
"Yesterday we had a good team but we have to make some good tactics to beat Cancellara. To win isn't that easy."
Garmin-Cevelo will line-up at the Tour of Flanders with Farrar, Hushovd and Heinrich Hausller, who skipped today after racing E3 yesterday. According to van Petergem the team are doing everything asked of them and the win they've come close to is just around the corner.
"Everyone wants to win but we've only got a couple of teams who've won big races. Maybe things will change once we get that first Classics win."
"We're all ready, they all want to ride for each other and they've got super condition."
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