Farrar again close in Tour stage 11

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Tyler Farrar is giving us all in the Northwest a real champion to root for. In the world’s biggest bike race, the lad from Wenatchee keeps coming up big, challenging the unbeatable Mark Cavendish time and again, only to fall inches short. Today a heartbeat separated Farrar from Cavendish, who benefits from having a stronger team (Columbia) and a bit more savvy than Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream). Tomorrow, and on Stage 14, Farrar may have more opportunities to finally nail a sprint victory.

Farrar and his many fans are always disappointed when he doesn’t win. But two seconds, and third and a fourth in one Tour de France from a U.S. (Wenatchee)-based sprinter is something I cannot recall ever happening. The big American cycling names in the Tour have been climbers and time-trial specialists, which is what you have to do to win the overall race. Sprinters can lay claim to the title of fastest men on two wheels, but they do not win the Tour. (Sometimes even the best sprinters do not even bother to finish the Tour.)

The last great American sprinter was Davis Phinney, who won a Tour stage in 1986 and again in 1987. Phinney’s son Taylor is lightning fast as well but rides track. For now, Farrar stands alone today among U.S. sprinters in professional road cycling.

Farrar’s name has been well-known in cycling circles locally for some time, and this marks his 11th second-place race finish this year. But he’s emerging internationally as an American star because he’s the only guy capable of challenging “Racer Boy” Cavendish, who today tied a record for British cyclists with his 8th stage win overall. In post-stage interviews, Farrar got lots of attention, analyzing the final uphill sprint for Versus and getting the nod from Phil Liggett as “the second fastest sprinter in this year’s Tour” — which might as well translate to the second fastest in the world. As former world-class racer Paul Sherwen noted, only a slight mistake by Cavendish stands between Farrar and two, maybe three, stage wins. This is Farrar’s first Tour, he’s gaining experience, and one of these days he’ll pull off an upset. It doesn’t hurt his cause that the humble, reflective Farrar has a far more winning personality than the braggart Cavendish.

Kudos to the Wenatchee World for its multimedia, real-time coverage of Farrar’s exploits. The World is running excellent freelance coverage from a veteran cycling writer, James Raia, who is consistently beating the wire services and national-media reporters.

The Wall Street Journal today also profiled Farrar.


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