Blazin' Saddles

A bridge too Farrar

Blazin' Saddles

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We've all had a bad day at the office and taken it out on somebody before, regretting it no doubt a bit later once the dust has settled. Tyler Farrar will probably feel that way on Friday morning — but then again, can you blame him?

For most people, a "bad day at the office" involves a lousy commute, being so busy you have to eat at your desk while working on spreadsheets, a bit of overtime keeping you from the pub, and overhearing at the water cooler that Debbie, the girl you fancy in accounts, is going on a date with Marcus, one of the chiselled bike couriers.

For Farrar and the other riders in the peloton a bad day constitutes ripping a load of skin of various parts of your body; having stitches on your face; breaking bones but being told you still have to come into work for the next fortnight; or being forced to keep up with your deadlines despite having acute gastroenteritis.

For three consecutive days, Farrar has been thrown off his bike and cheese-grated by the awaiting tarmac; for three days, instead of competing for wins the American knows he's capable of, Farrar has been reduced to leaving pools of blood over various roads of France; for three days, the 28-year-old from Washington has probably been reading on internet forums about how he's past it, while looking down at scabs and bruises and wondering just how he's feasibly meant to get back on it.

"He said last night that he was as low as he could go so if he was that low last night then it's difficult for him," Garmin-Sharp's DS Allan Peiper said at the finish in Saint-Quentin moments after Farrar's latest high-speed accident.

"He's taken so much skin off, he's got burn marks all over his chest from tyres from two days ago, then he's lost skin off his back yesterday. He's only got one leg that was unhurt so I don't know how he's going to be tonight. He's tough and he's been breaking bones since he's been a kid but this might be too much."

So we can probably cut Farrar a little slack for what happened moments later. As one of Argos-Shimano's sporting directors was being interviewed for Dutch TV, Farrar was caught storming past and towards the Argos team bus.

"You're not doing this to me. I want an explanation from Tom. Tom needs to come talk to me right now," Farrar said with a raised voice before being restrained by a few Argos riders, blood still dripping down his left forearm across the Buddhist zen tattoo preaching peace.

"Just tell him - you don't do that to someone," said Farrar, almost in tears, while being led away from the bus by Garmin team manager Jonathan Vaughters (at the end of what was no doubt an eventful day for the former US Postal rider with the generous sideburns).

When Saddles first watched the video online (it has since been taken down), his initial reaction was one of surprise: just what did Farrar expect to find on the inside of the Argos bus?

If the Argos bus lives up to its name, Farrar would have had to search through a cumbersome catalogue for a code relating to his desired object (Tom) before filling out a form and handing it to a member of staff to process. It would have taken yonks, by which time the American could well have cooled down a little.

Saddles wanted to ask Farrar's team-mates Dave Zabriskie and Christian Vandevelde to shed a bit more light on what really went on behind the scenes with their American team-mate — but they had no comment.

Anyway, the Tom in question was Dutchman Tom Veelers, Argos-Shimano's main sprinter now Marcel Kittel has packed his bags from the Tour with a stomach bug-cum-sore knee.

As the peloton was cascading into Saint-Quentin at breakneck speed, Farrar and Veelers came shoulder to shoulder — the Dutchman the last of a three-man Argos train and the American bent on latching on to said train.

When a Lampre rider — with haunches that looked from above suspiciously like those of Alessandro Petacchi (who went on to finish eighth) — swerved slightly off his line and into the path of Farrar, something (or someone) had to give.

With Veelers determined to stay on Koen de Kort's wheel and not concede an inch, Farrar — quite understandably, given how low his morale must be — cracked, his front wheel buckling and his body thrown from his bike.

Somehow, Andre Greipel avoided following suit thanks to an astonishing piece bike handling that involved a huge swerve and (to make matters worse for the sprawling Farrar) a reflexive trample on the American. Green jersey Peter Sagan, riding alongside Greipel, almost pulled off an even more extraordinary extrication — and although the Slovak eventually landed on his rump, he would complete the stage without a cut on his body.

It just goes to show how a mixture of confidence, form and luck can have such a huge role in things. Farrar is rock bottom — and if anyone was going to crash when the odds were stacked against him, it was the flame-haired former fast-man. Greipel and Sagan, on the other hand, are on cloud nine and seemingly unstoppable.

Greipel went on to win the stage, despite first having to fight back onto the front of the race — and then having to pass Matt Goss on the closing straight.

It must be so frustrating for a rider of undebatable talent such as Farrar, seeing these men that he used to beat in major races ride off with the accolades while he's reduced to picking himself up off the tarmac (and leaving a lot of himself still there).

Look, it wasn't Veelers's fault (who went on to take sixth place); nor was it Farrar's fault; it probably wasn't even the Lampre rider's fault. It was a combination of things that seemed to conspire against a man, lest we forget, who has won sprints in all three Grand Tours — and a man who has lost one of his best friends to a horrific cycling accident just over a year ago.

So, on Friday morning when he wakes up (if, of course, he manages to sleep at all), Tyler will probably regret the sudden rush that came over him outside the Argos bus. But everyone — including Veelers and the whole Argos team — will forgive and forget. They know how it is.

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