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MADRID (VN) — Tyler Farrar discretely completed his eighth career grand tour Sunday in Madrid. At 32, having started 15 grand tours, he has fully transitioned from being America’s only sprinter to win stages in all three grand tours into the role of road captain at Dimension Data.
Farrar confirmed to VeloNews that he has signed a two-year contract extension to keep him on the African-based team through 2018.
“The deal is done,” Farrar said. “I love it here. I am really happy on this team and the role I have. I am at the point of my career where I can help the other guys achieve success and trying to put my experience to good use.”
Despite being the relatively young age of 32, Farrar is winding down his 14th professional season, with 11 of those at the elite, WorldTour level. After blazing to sprint victories in all three grand tours, as well as winning other major races such as Vattenfall Cyclassics, Scheldeprijs, and stages at Tirreno-Adriatico, Farrar is now firmly committed to his road captain role as well as helping former nemesis Mark Cavendish.
“I am older in cycling years than I am in regular years,” Farrar said with a laugh. “It is perpetuating the cycle. I am not as fast as I used to be, and I do have a lot of experience, and I think I can be helpful in a lot of races. I guess the team thought so, too, because they are keeping me around. I love this team and the culture they’ve built up here.”
Farrar’s biggest wins came during his years on the Slipstream franchise, but he joined Dimension Data in 2015 as part of the team’s big push to enter the WorldTour. Since then, Farrar embraced the road captain role and has enthusiastically worked to help younger riders, just as veterans like Julian Dean did for him when he was an ascending sprinter.
“Tyler is very important for this team, especially for the younger guys. They really look up to him,” said Dimension Data sport director Jens Zemke. “He knows how to handle a race, and he shares that information with our young riders, especially the African guys. Tyler is a real role model for this team.”
Farrar boasts 29 professional wins, with his last one coming at the Tour of Beijing at the end of 2014. Since moving to Dimension Data, he has all but given up trying to contest the sprints for himself. Instead, he is helping in the lead-outs and working to bring along a rich vein of African-based talent the team is committed to nurturing along with its WorldTour-level riders such as Cavendish, Edvald Boasson Hagen, and Steve Cummings.
“This team has always had a big development focus,” Farrar said. “That’s what the team grew out of, to give the African guys a chance to go to Europe. Part of the ethos of the team is to open that up to African riders. We have a nice blend of experienced riders here, too.”
After racing 11 consecutive grand tours from 2009-12, Farrar has raced only one per season since 2013. This year, he didn’t make the Tour de France squad after racing in France last year. The arrival of Cavendish, who eventually won four stages despite pulling out early to prepare for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, meant there wasn’t enough room for Farrar.
“We’ve got a great squad, and you can only start nine guys,” Farrar said. “It was a ‘maybe’ for a long time, but we are not only a sprint-focused team. There were other objectives as well. We brought guys to support Cav at the Tour, but that wasn’t the only goal for the Tour. I ended up here at the Vuelta, and I was happy with it. I ended up suffering my way through this Vuelta.”
Like many, Farrar characterized the 2016 Vuelta as the “hardest grand tour I’ve ever done.” Up next is the Eneco Tour, and possibly a start at the UCI Road World Championships in Qatar in October.
“If I am going well, I’d like to go the worlds. If I am running on fumes, there is not much you can really do,” Farrar said. “I’ll keep going until I run out of gas, then shut it down, recover, take a break, go back to the States, and then get ready for the classics. I’ve gotten through this Vuelta, and I wanted to come here to be fit for the classics next year, so racing a grand tour is good for that.”