Garmin-Transition’s Tyler Farrar earned his first win of the year Thursday morning as he won on the cobbles of Western Belgium at the Three Days of De Panne.
Farrar won the field sprint during the first of the day’s two stages that wrap up the traditional Tour of Flanders warm-up. Teammate David Millar finished safely with the bunch, fourth overall and 12 seconds behind race leader Luca Paolini (Acqua & Sapone) heading into the afternoon’s 14.75km time trial.
After finishing third at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in February, Farrar’s stage win Thursday was especially gratifying, as the finish line in De Panne sits just an hour’s drive from his adopted hometown of Ghent.
VeloNews: I want to ask you your thoughts on Sunday’s Tour of Flanders, but first, congratulations on today’s win.
Tyler Farrar: Thanks. It’s good to get that first win out of the way. It’s been a bit of a search this spring. I’ve been close all year, at Qatar, Oman and the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and it was getting a bit frustrating. The first one is always the hardest.
VN: It’s got to be gratifying to win so close to your home in Gent.
TF: It’s never easy to win in pro cycling, but it’s always special for me to win in Belgium. I always have friends at the finish line.
VN: Watching the replay of the sprint from head-on, your rear wheel was bouncing all over the place on the cobbles. Is there a trick to sprinting on the cobbles, and are some riders better at it than others?
TF: It’s definitely different sprinting on the stones. I went to step on it, but you sort of lose your acceleration a bit with all the bounces. But it’s the same for everybody, and it worked out okay for me in the end.
VN: It was a close sprint, and you weren’t exactly posting up at the finish line. Did you know you’d won?
TF: I knew I had won the sprint, but I wasn’t clear if we’d caught the break or not, so I didn’t know if I’d won or finished third. There were still two guys off the front with 2km to go, and it was a pretty hectic finish, so I wasn’t positive if I’d won.
VN: That finish looked particularly hazardous, with the peloton weaving through parked cars, traffic medians and driveways as it caught the break. It was a minor miracle there wasn’t a pileup in the final 2km.
TF: Yeah, the finishes are always hectic at De Panne. There’s a lot of road furniture, and it was a headwind for the last 4km, so that makes it hard to string it out, and guys sit on the wheel and then come from behind. It worked out, but it was touch and go for a while.
VN: Winning had to be a concern after you punctured (with 50km remaining).
TF: Yes and no. I hit a pothole, and thought I’d only punctured the rear wheel. Martijn (Maaskant) waited for me and brought me back up, and as soon as we got back on I realized I also had a slow leak in the front wheel, so I had another wheel change and then we chased back on again. The team was 100-percent for me today, to make sure it was a field sprint, so everyone was still committed.
VN: So the team was 100-percent for you, even though David Millar was poised to win the overall (following Thursday afternoon’s time trial)?
TF: The best thing for him was for it to be a field sprint, so that everything stayed same for the GC and he could just worry about the time trial. It worked out the best for me, too, so we might as well use the team to bring it together for a sprint.
VN: Is it unusual for a rider such as Martijn Maaskant to drop back and pace you back to the peloton after a puncture, as he’s one of the team’s protected riders for the Tour of Flanders on Sunday?
TF: For Martijn, for this race, the objective was just to open up the legs for the weekend. He wanted to ride hard. Come Sunday I’ll be riding for him. He had a few days to rest now. He’s set up well for the weekend.
VN: What about you? Is Flanders a race that you believe you can win?
TF: My condition is really good, seeing the way I’ve been riding the last few races. I’ve said from the beginning that Martin and Johan Vansummeren are our best chances at La Ronde and Roubaix. I’m planning on riding for them. If something changes on the road, then so be it. My outlook is to do everything I can to help them. I’ll personally be aiming more for Scheldeprijs on Wednesday.
VN: Who do you see as the big favorites for Flanders on Sunday?
TF: Well for us, I think Johan and Martijn can do good rides. Beyond our team, basing off the form they’ve shown, obviously Boonen, Cancellara, Flecha and Pozzato are the favorites.
VN: Sporza is reporting today that Pozzato may not start Flanders due to an illness, and Sky announced that Edvald Boassan Hagen wouldn’t start, either, because of tendonitis.
TF: I hadn’t heard that about Pozzato. Well, that could change things. But basing off the form they’ve shown up to this point, they are the favorites. It’s been a nasty spring, there have been a lot of races in cold, wet weather, and when that happens, it’s a lot easier for guys to get sick or develop tendonitis.
VN: Obviously you have a few major objectives between now and May, but I want to ask you whether you’ll be racing at the Giro d’Italia or the Amgen Tour of California. I know that AEG Sports would dearly like to have the top American sprinter at the biggest race in America, battling against top sprinters such as Tom Boonen and Mark Cavendish.
TF: Honestly, my program is still up in the air. It’s up to the team to decide if they want to make a bigger push for stages or the GC. If we want a team focused on the overall then I’d be better served to do the Giro. I’ll go where team tells me. But for now I am 100-percent focused on the next 10 days. I’m not worrying about anything past Roubaix.