SPA, Belgium — For all of the overt power and bravado cyclists often use to win sprint stages, Tyler Farrar doesn’t seem to fit the part.
He’s not boastful or brash and nor is he particularly intimidating or aggressive toward other riders in the waning moments of high-speed finishes.
But this year at the Tour de France and throughout the season, Farrar, the three-time Grand Tour stage winner, is still hard to miss.
As the most victorious rider on Garmin-Transitions during the 2009 season (12 wins), a huge image of Farrar adorns the team motorhome that travels to the squad’s major races. The image shows him celebrating a win, arms raised and stretched apart, fists clenched, mouth agap.
It’s been at every stage of this year’s Tour de France, including arriving in the team area this morning in downtown Brussels for the start of stage 2. And it will be there again Tuesday in stage 3 from Wanze to Arenberg Porte du Hainut.
“When I first saw it, I said, ‘Wow. Oh, really,” said Farrar, who crashed in today’s stage with several other teammates and finished 191st, more than 19 minutes behind stage winner Slyvain Chavanel. “But it’s fine. It’s nice. It’s not exactly me, but it’s flattering. But yeah, it was a big surprise.
“It was a bit of a shock turning up to training camp and seeing that,” continued Farrar about the motorhome image. “It’s flattering, of course. But it’s not something I would seek out.”
Last season, the image of Christian Vande Velde, who was fourth overall in the 2008 Tour de France and winner of the 2008 Tour of Missouri, was featured on the bus.
“It something that the team directors decides and they don’t tell the riders until the bus shows up for the first time each year,” said Marya Pongrace, the team’s publicist. “But people are noticing Tyler’s image more since he’s getting more well-known.”
Sunday’s stage 1
Walking across the finish-line is not what Farrar planned on his home turf or in any bike race.
Pedaling near his European home in Gent during stage 1, Farrar joined most of the rest of the field involved in three late stage crashes and lost a prime opportunity Sunday to claim his first Tour win.
After riding for more than five hours on an ideal route for sprinters, Farrar tumbled with about 800 meters left in the 223.5-kilometer stage from Rotterdam. In the final tangle of crashes within the final two kilometers, Farrar’s derailleur snapped after his real wheelwas hit by a rider from the French AG2R team.
With many other riders on the ground around him, Farrar pushed his bike across the line in the confusing finale.
Farrar’s misfortune was additionally ill-timed since his chief rival, Mark Cavendish, fell earlier and was out of sprinting contention.
James Raia is covering the Tour de France and Tyler Farrar for The Wenatchee World.