If ever there was a chance for American Tyler Farrar to take his first Tour de France stage win, Sunday’s stage from Rotterdam to Brussels was the day.
With 2km remaining, Mark Cavendish tangled up with Lampre’s Mirco Lorenzetto in a sharp right-hand turn, dashing any chance of contesting the sprint.
Another crash, with just 800 meters remaining, whittled the front of the pack down to just two-dozen men — and Farrar was one of them.
With 50 meters remaining, the Garmin-Transitions rider was sitting in perfect position on eventual stage winner Alessandro Petacchi’s wheel. A stage win would have made Farrar only the second American to win a stage at all three grand tours, it would have put him into the green points jersey, and it would have happened on the Fourth of July — and all near his European home in Ghent, Belgium.
Instead, Farrar’s dream scenario disappeared in an instant. Petacchi jumped from the right side of the road to the left, HTC-Columbia’s Mark Renshaw followed, and as Farrar went in pursuit, AG2R rider Lloyd Mondory crashed and his bike hooked Farrar’s rear derailleur.
With the AG2R rider’s bike fully entangled with Farrar’s, the Garmin rider could only kick at it, all while watching the sprint ride away in front of him.
“His front wheel was hung up in my rear derailleur,” Farrar said. “After that I was dragging his bike down the road. I’m lucky I didn’t crash.”
The Frenchman was quick to absolve himself of any blame.
“(Omega Pharma’s Jurgen Roelandts) hit me from behind,” Mondory said. “I’m sorry for Farrar, but I couldn’t do anything about it.”
In an odd coincidence, Mondory was one of several riders who ended up on the tarmac when Cavendish caused a spectacular crash at the Tour of Switzerland last month. Petacchi won that stage, too.
At the finish, where Farrar was forced to walk across the line and to the team bus, the American was frustrated, but also thankful he hadn’t hit the deck.
“I felt really good. This is the best kind of finish there is for me, with the drag up to the line,” Farrar said. “I was really motivated. The team rode perfectly for me today. We worked all day at the front, and we had a perfect lead-out. And then this happened. You can’t avoid something like this. It’s a pity to miss the chance for the win, and also to miss the points for the green jersey.”
Adding insult to injury, Farrar’s damaged bike was one of five chosen for a post-race x-ray scan checking for motors.