After spreading himself thin, Farrar finds groove in California

American sprinter has returned to focusing completely on the sprints and hopes to return to the speed of his most productive years

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (VN) — The saying goes, you’ve got to have money to make money. The same is true in sprinting: wins are a currency used to beget more wins, and without the confidence to win, a sprinter may as well walk.

Perhaps that’s why the stage 4 win for Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) at the Amgen Tour of California on Wednesday was so big it seemed the entire field was happy for him, congratulations passed around lightly, an entire team jubilant on a wide boulevard on the Santa Barbara beach.

Farrar took a big one for his confidence, winning a drag race of a sprint into Santa Barbara after hitching a brilliant ride on Ken Hanson’s Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies train. It marked his first of the year, and he bested phenom Peter Sagan (Cannondale) in the process. farrar won craftily, without a train of his own in the final kilometer, as Garmin had used its horses to keep him safe before the finishing straight and left the Washington-native to freelance, which he did to perfection.

“I didn’t see him,” he said of Sagan. “We were taking from the front. When our team was done, some GreenEdge guys slotted over, and I worked off of them. And then Optum did a really good leadout in the last K, and I was just able to tail-gun off of them.”

At different points in a solid career, Farrar has been absolutely brilliant. He’s won a stage at each grand tour, (two a piece at the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España to go with his July 4, 2011 Tour win) but at other times has suffered from the bad luck of crashes, the mental onslaught of tragic circumstances, and racing in the same era as top gun Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step). This year, he’s finished second a few times, and was sixth at Scheldeprijs, but hasn’t snared the results he’s wanted. That may change now.

“I’m psyched. This spring wasn’t what I wanted, a string of second and second and third and fourth and second. … You know, in sprinting, wins are what count. I was really motivated coming into this. I’ve been training really hard this spring, and it’s paying off,” he told VeloNews just after the stage from Santa Clarita ended.

Before the race in California began, Farrar said he took some time to focus on getting his sprint back up to speed, working on the track. Three years ago, he was billed by many as the first real threat to unseat Cavendish. But promising results in the classics had Farrar dipping his toes in the cobbled monuments, trying to diversify his repertoire. The result? A lack of results.

“I started trying to focus on too many things: focus on the classics 100 percent, focus on sprinting 100 percent. And get better at climbing. This and that. And I think I was kind of stretching myself a little too thin,” he said.
On Wednesday, Farrar was right where he needed to be, both on the road on and the podium.

“A win never hurts,” he said. “In sprinting, wins are what people count. I’m really happy to finally have gotten the monkey off my back this season, and hope to keep that going.”

He’ll have another chance on Thursday at the Amgen Tour, as a sprint finish is expected when the race barrels into Avila Beach after 185 kilometers.

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