Rotterdam: American Tyler Farrar is primed to upset British rival Mark Cavendish’s plan to dominate the bunch sprints on the Tour de France this month.
Cavendish crushed the sprint field by winning a stunning six stages last year for a total tally of 10 wins in just two editions.
The Isle of Man sprinter, who rides for HTC-Columbia, has his eye this year on winning the points classification’s green jersey that he missed out on last year after a tumultuous duel with Norwegian Thor Hushovd.
With Hushovd having declared his relative lack of interest in repeating his ambition and Belgian specialist Tom Boonen not competing in the race Cavendish’s path to the sprinters’ main prize looks relatively unhindered.
Farrar meanwhile comes into his second Tour less nervous, brimming with confidence after stage wins in the 2009 Tour of Spain and 2010 Tour of Italy, and hoping to avoid the mistakes that left him finishing in Cavendish’s wake in 2009.
While regarding the Manxman as a big threat, the 26-year-old Garmin-Transitions sprinter is hoping Cavendish’s comparatively quiet season so far goes in his favour.
“I don’t think he’s as dominant this year as he was last year coming into the Tour,” he said.
“I still consider him one of the main contenders in all the sprints of course but I think the sprints are a bit more open this year than they were last year.
“Last year I was a little less confident because I didn’t know (what to expect). Now that I’ve done (the race) I know what to expect a bit more, and I know that I’m good enough to race for the win,” he added.
While the battle for the race’s coveted yellow jersey hits the heights in a decisive third week in the Pyrenees, the sprinters get their main chance to shine on on stages one, four and five in the first week.
Farrar’s team manager Jonathan Vaughters believes the key to breaking Cavendish’s monopoly is to dent his confidence from the outset.
“Cavendish is someone who needs a lot of momentum and confidence around him, so the first stage is certainly crucial for him,” said Vaughters.
“Tyler is used to fighting tooth and nail ever day, so win or lose on the first day he will come out every stage after that fighting.”
While considered the most prolific sprinter in the world, Cavendish this season has raced less, won less, and thus made less of an impact -- on the road.
Off it, he has hit the headlines for making rude gestures that got him pulled off a race by his team, and for doing little to diminish a brash and carefree attitude that has only helped promote a ‘bad boy’ reputation.
Last month a crash caused by the Manxman on the Tour of Switzerland caused uproar, although Cavendish’s team maintain it is his fiery ways on the bike that are crucial to his success.
Farrar is known to be far more laid-back -- and Vaughters believes that what will count on the day is not attitude, but top end speed.
“I think what’s important is being really fast for 150 metres. Tyler does it on power and talent, he’s maybe not so much of a gunslinger (as Cavendish) but he still seems to win races.”