Garmin-Sharp sprinter Tyler Farrar will open his 2014 season at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina (January 19-26), testing his early season legs against the likes of Omega Pharma-Quick Step's Mark Cavendish and Cannondale's Peter Sagan.
"I'm really excited for it," Farrar told Cyclingnews.
"I've actually never even been to South America, so it will be a little bit of an adventure. I've done the Tour Down Under a few times, so plenty of years I've started my season this early, but never in San Luis. So I'm really looking forward to it."
The seven-day race, which features two or three possible sprint finishes, runs concurrent with the Santos Tour Down Under WorldTour race next season; nevertheless, there will be some world-class competition for Farrar in Argentina.
"I know there are a few flat days," Farrar said. "So there should hopefully be a few opportunities and some good southern hemisphere weather to start the year off."
Hoping for a solid start
Farrar, a winner of stages in all three Grand Tours, including a Tour de France stage win in 2011, is hoping a solid start will help him improve on the consistent-yet-frustrating results from the 2013 season, which he characterized as a rebuilding year following a disastrous 2012.
"I crashed so much and spent almost that entire season either injured or coming back from injury," he said. "It took me a good chunk of 2013 to really find my feet again."
The first of Farrar's only two wins last season came in May during the Amgen Tour of California's stage 4 final run into coastal Santa Barbara. He almost followed that up the next day with a win during the finish in Avila Beach – taking the technical, slightly uphill bunch sprint in front of Sagan and BMC's Thor Hushovd. However Radioshack's Jens Voigt had already sneaked off the front solo in the chaotic, windblown finish to win the stage by six seconds.
Farrar's next win didn't come until October, when he took stage 5 of the Tour de l'Eurométropole [formerly Franco-Belge]. In between those wins, he piled up 22 top-five finishes, including six second-place results and two wins. He missed the Tour de France for the first time since 2009, and instead he raced the Vuelta a Espana, where he finished second on the final day.
"Toward the end of the year things really started to click and come good," he said.
"But 2013 did not have the results I'd hoped for the season as a whole. As a sprinter, wins are what counts, so it wasn't very satisfying. If you win two races and have seven second places, it kind of feels like you're banging your head against a wall sometimes."
The 29-year-old from Wenatchee, Washington, signed a one-year contract with Garmin for 2014, and now he is hoping a solid, injury- and crash-free 2013 will help him rise back to top form and put him at the tip of the spear in the big races.
"I've been training pretty hard now for a little over a month,” he said. “I spent two weeks in Maui training with [teammate Ryder] Hesjedal, and that went really well. The training is awesome there and the weather was good, so we got in a lot of hours. I think I've got a good race program to bring me into the spring, and, fingers crossed, it will all go well."
Going well for Farrar would mean turning as many of last year's close calls into wins this year.
After San Luis, he'll do the Dubai Tour before attending a team camp in Majorca to prepare for the Belgian spring classics. He said he's scheduled to race the Giro d'Italia, where he won two stages in 2010, but his name is not yet among team's early plans for the Tour de France again this year.
"Knowing in advance means it is the way it is," he said of the possibility he could miss the Tour again. "There are plenty of good races on the calendar, plenty of other good races to target. I guess I am riding the Giro. But like I said, we'll see. I would love to ride the Tour, so if I can show in the first part of the year that I'm back to my best, then I would hope I would get to go."
Farrar also admitted that Garmin-Sharp has shifted its focus less toward stage wins in the Grand Tours and more toward general classification hopes, but he still believes he is a good fit for the American team
that he's ridden with since 2008.
"This will be my seventh with Garmin," he said. "It's definitely been my home for awhile, and I'm quite comfortable with the team. But we'll see as I evolve as a rider and the team evolves if it continues to be a good fit. I guess time will tell. Anything is possible. Right now I've got a whole year ahead of me, and I'm trying to just focus on having it go well and put in the winter that I need to put in to have a good season."