Tyler Farrar is preparing for his ninth professional season and he’s certainly hoping the 2012 season will not be the emotional roller coaster that he endured last year.
The Garmin sprinter enjoyed some of his best results ever, capped by a breakthrough stage win at the Tour de France, but suffered a horrible crash at the Vuelta a España that derailed his hopes for a shot at the rainbow jersey in Copenhagen.
That’s nothing compared to the gut-wrenching experience of losing his close friend and training partner Wouter Weylandt in a horrific crash during the Giro d’Italia.
Speaking to VeloNews, Farrar talks about Weylandt, how much it meant to him to dedicate his Tour victory to his best friend, and how he views his chances in the London Olympic Games. Here are excerpts from an interview conducted with Farrar last fall:
VeloNews.com: You had an emotional roller coaster during 2011. How do you take stock of the season?
Tyler Farrar: I can’t see that the season’s been a failure. Winning a stage in the Tour and the TTT in the Tour was huge and I had a good run through the classics. It’s certainly not a failure, but it’s a year that I will gladly put behind me. What happened in the Giro with Wouter, that was absolutely horrible. There are not even words to describe that. Crashing out of the Vuelta after a week, that certainly wasn’t good before the worlds. So there have been some pretty big highs and some pretty big lows this year. I will happily close the book on 2011.
VN: The crash involving Wouter, how bad was that to deal with?
TF: I’ve never had to deal with something like that before, losing a friend, it’s fairly traumatic. That’s life sometimes, because some things are out of your control. Bad things do happen to good people. You just have to try to deal with it and try to move on. I’ve certainly not forgotten, but I am trying to move forward.
VN: That was such an emotional ending of the next day’s stage, when you crossed the line with the Leopard-Trek team. What did that mean to you?
TF: It was just surreal. We were out there for a long time. That was a long time to be with your thoughts. It’s something I remember as a kid watching what they did in the Tour after Casartelli died. I could never imagine that I would be a part of that some day. It was something that I will never forget. I owe a huge thank you to the Leopard-Trek riders for allowing me to be a part of it at that finish, to ride across the line like that with them. That meant so much to me.
VN: You decided not to continue and attended the funeral in Belgium, how did you cope later with the loss?
TF: It’s not as if there is any one moment that comes and everything is OK. I am still dealing with the loss. Every day it gets a little bit better. It takes time. I was a big mess after it happened. I went to the funeral. I actually flew back to the States to escape a little bit. Ghent is not a village, it’s not a big city, either. There were a lot of memories and in the immediate aftermath, it was hard to be there. I went back to the States.
VN: Did you ever consider not racing again last season?
TF: Cycling is my life, it has been my life since I was 12. It’s how I make a living. I never really thought of hanging it up for the season. I wasn’t sure at first of when I could get back to racing. The team was quite supportive of me and let me call the shots in terms of when I was ready to come back. They didn’t pressure me. As I started to get back on my bike again, it was a bit of a struggle for a few days, but then it almost became therapeutic, just to get out and be alone with my thoughts. At least to start the process of working my way through it all. I started training pretty hard and I started to get the idea to do something to make a gesture or tribute for Wouter in the Tour. That became my big goal that I was working toward. I had to train to get good enough to win a stage in the Tour to make a tribute for him.
VN: You did win that stage at the Tour, so it must have meant even more to finally get that monkey off your back and also be able to dedicate the win to Wouter?
TF: That’s what I was trying to do for three years and to finally knock it off, so in that sense, it was a huge relief to finally get a stage win in the Tour. It was also one of those things that I had this idea that I could win a stage in the Tour and make a salute to Wouter. OK, it’s a great idea, but it’s easier said than done. To actually to be able to do it made me very happy. I know that it’s not so easy to win a stage in the Tour. I wasn’t sure it was going to happen.
VN: Looking back at last season, from the outside, it seemed as if there was some polemic between you and Thor (Hushovd) on the team. How do you feel now that he’s going to race at BMC?
TF: I don’t think Thor and I had a problem this year. We got along pretty well. We worked together very well. It did require a few adjustments in races we were targeting. I think we worked it out and it was pretty beneficial to both of us in the end. To be honest, I am going to miss having Thor on the team this year. I got along really well with him. It was fun having him at the races. He was a pretty good teammate. In that sense, I will miss him.
VN: Looking ahead to 2012, another big year, with the Tour and the Olympics stacked up, what are your priorities?
TF: For the classics, nothing will change. You know the races, you know the dates. At this point, I’ve done enough races to know what races I can do for prep, what works well, what doesn’t. So not much is going to change as far as spring goes. After that, it will be a rest and rebuild for the Tour. The Olympics are so close in at the back of the Tour, it’s going to be tricky. It’s a balancing act of what you do in those four or five days after the Tour, on how you can recover, but not let your body shut entirely down. That’s the risk after a three-week race. If you finish the Tour and rest too much, you’re going to be in trouble the next week in London.
VN: What happened in the test event in August, you were not there for the sprint finish when Cavendish won?
TF: There was a big pile-up with 3km to go. I ended up behind the pileup. They fell in front of me and there was nowhere to go except into them.
VN: What’s your impression of the London Olympic course? People are saying Box Hill is harder than it looks on paper …
TF: It’s an interesting course. The run out to the circuit and run back in are really easy.; fairly straight, flat roads, it’s 50km each way. The circuit itself is a lot harder than people have been giving it credit for. It’s pretty nasty, that circuit. In the test event, we only did two laps. When you have to do nine laps in the Olympics, that’s really going to wear on people. The climb is longer than I was led to believe before I saw it. There’s no recovery on the circuit, left-right, up-down, small roads. If it was a regular ProTour race, with eight-rider teams with race radio, it would be one thing, but with five-man team in the Olympics and no race radio, I think it’s going to break up a lot on the circuit. It will be hard to reorganize things, with only five riders and a lack of communication. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I think it will break up, so the question is whether it will come back together on that 50km run back into London.