18 March 2011

America's Best Classics Team Prepares to Test its Metal

Team Garmin-Transitions and Cervélo Test Team have joined forces for the 2011 season to create Garmin-Cervélo, a new team that will build on past successes and expects to produce incredibly exciting racing this year. With a stacked 2011 roster that includes pro cyclists Christian Vande Velde, Dave Zabriskie, Tyler Farrar and World Road Race Champion Thor Hushovd, Team Garmin promises to grab headlines--and sweep podiums--throughout the racing season.

With a promising showing at Tirreno-Adriatico and high expectations placed upon him for the Spring Classics, including Milan San Remo, Tyler Farrar might well be on his way to his best season yet. But let's step back for a moment and recap the some of the most memorable moments that brought him to this point.

Tyler Farrar talks with Heidi Swift about racing in Europe.

Farrar visited Portland, Oregon one dark and rainy evening this winter to celebrate Upper Echelon Fitness's Grand Opening in November 2010 and be interviewed by fellow bike racer and wordsmith Heidi Swift. BicyclingHub had a front-row seat (literally) for all of the action and is pleased to bring you some of the highlights.

What win meant the most to you this past 2010 racing season?
"It's hard to pick one--especially since Grand Tour wins are so hard to come by."

Three of his top favorites include:
1. My second win in the Giro de Italia, because it was the best team lead-out my team has ever done.

2. The closing stage of the Vuelta de Espana: it was a pretty significant win in Madrid.

3. Getting 5th in the Tour de Flanders. It was rainy hardman stuff in general...but an EPIC day. Living in Flanders, racing close to home is always special. It is the coolest race of the season.
Farrar recounts the rocky start to the race and crashing 120K miles in, only to later be clipped by a car. "On the deck for the second time, I thought, no way I'm still in the race at this point.' But our Team Director said, 'DON'T QUIT NOW.' Adrenaline took care of the bumps and the bruises. I Owe a big thank you to Matt White; getting a Top 5 in Flanders is one of the high points on my resume."

What can fans look forward to for the upcoming season and the new Garmin-Cervelo Team?

"In the Classics it's such chaos and luck is such a factor. the more strong guys you have the better off you are....The more numbers you have, the better off you are."

With Thor Hushovd coming on board, Garmin-Cervelo have two really big sprinters on one team. Farrar's perspective on the team dynamics and how this shapes their overall program? "It gives us the potential to be winning two races at the same time in different places; for most of the other I'll go to one race and he'll go to the other, and hopefully we'll both be winning."

"We also have Heinrich [Haussler]; Heinrich's one of the most naturally talented riders in the world. He can do anything he sets his mind to. [Given recent crashes] he might not focus so much on sprinting, and focus a bit more on being an attacking/ breakaway rider, which he's also won Tour stages and other big races as."

"On paper, we'll be the strongest Classics team in the world...We have so much depth in our team that any scenario you can think up for a bike race we have a rider where that's the ideal scenario for them to win. I think it should work out to a whole lot of victories."

Major Goals for 2011?
"I like to break the season into chunks, or blocks."
1st chunk: the Classics
2nd chunk: The Tour [de France]
3rd chunk: the Vuelta and World Championships
"Also, whether I do the Giro or California, which I don't know yet...But until I finish Paris Roubaix...I'm worried about being the best I can be in the spring. The Classics don't change; the races you want to win stay the same. That stretch from Milan-San-Remo thru .,... Gent - Wevelgem, Tour de Flanders, Paris Roubaix..."

His crown jewel? "The Tour de Flanders is, for me, the most beautiful race in the world. I don't know if it's a race I can ever win. I've been top 5 there this year but being 5th place and winning is definitely two different things. but it's definitely my favorite day of racing. I'd love to be good there.

"I think races like Milan-San-Remo and Gent - Wevelgem probably suit my characteristics as a rider a bit more. they actually can be won in a field sprint so those will be very important but the beauty of the classics is because you're completely fresh for each one so you can give 110 % to every one. You can hurt yourself pretty badly and be full gas again a few days later..if you can win one it's a pretty successful year already."

On Doping
One of the audience members queried, How does it adversely affect the sport? and how much does it distract you from doing your job?

"It's something we're all aware of as cyclists. it's an issue that the sport faces; it's an issue EVERY sport faces. from a publicity standpoint it's for the bad, but from a sporting standpoint, it's a good thing b/c cycling DOES face it right up front and we fight it harder than any other sport. the "downside" [gesticulating air quotes] of fighting it is that we have scandals. if you don't do drug testing you don't have any positive tests--ala football [audience laughter] so that's the thing. a lot of sports chose to push it under the rug. We don't. We do everything in our power to clear it out.

Tyler signs a 2010 Garmin-Transitions jersey for Doug Duguay, Owner and Sales Manager of BicyclingHub.com. We will be auctioning off this very jersey to support the 2011 Portland Tour de Cure, to benefit the American Diabetes Association. The value will go up if/when he wins a stage at the Tour!

"It's human nature to cheat...the good thing is they are catching these people. That shows the anti-doping testing is working. It's a sport that has a long history of doping sadly in the last decade though it's a sport that's been turning itself out to change that culture. We've made a lot of progress--obviously, we still have a way to go...but you can't change it overnight...You have to fight it; as they make better and better tests, they're going to catch more and more of the guys that are cheating. And we're going to have to deal with a few of these scandals to make it happen. But these are the scandals that are the watershed moments in the sport that really changes things.

"Before the Festina scandal in 1998, no one really cared; Operation Puerto scandal was the next moment where anti-doping went to a whole new level. It's all a work in progress. I really think it's cleaning up a lot.

"You take my team [Garmin-Cervelo]: we were one of the first teams to come out and say, we are a clean team. We're going to do in-house testing on top of any UCI or WADA or whatever governing body testing. It was an interesting position to stake out at the time. A lot of people said, 'This will be an interesting test of how clean cycling is: if you have a completely clean team, how well are they going to do?' And we were 5th or 6th in the world this year. And I think that's a pretty good indication of how clean the sport is.

Farrar's sage advice on the matter: "You know it's there, but you'd go crazy if you worry about it; it becomes a crutch. The biggest thing: worry about YOURSELF, not 'what's that guy doing?' It's not my problem...I'll worry about my own training."

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