Garmin-Cervélo fought to the end in an exciting Tour of Flanders that saw Tyler Farrar lead the team with 13th behind surprise winner Nick Nuyens.
In what’s already being called one of the most exciting Tour of Flanders in a decade, attacks came often and early and the action didn’t let up until the final charge to the line. Things started off well enough when Garmin-Cervélo put veteran classics rider Roger Hammond into an early five-man breakaway that put the pressure on the other teams.
The tactics were playing out well going into the decisive trio of climbs at the Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg, and Koppenberg, but reigning world champion Thor Hushovd punctured and key worker Sep Vanmarcke crashed out.
From there, it became a battle of attrition all the way to the line. Pre-race favorite Fabian Cancellara attacked hard, but seemed to run out of gas late in the punishing race, opening the door for Nuyens to sneak away with the win in a three-up sprint. Farrar came across with a group at 1:24 back in a thrilling, but bittersweet day for the boys in the Garmin-Cervélo kit.
“It just didn’t go our way today. We played the early part of the race well, but as it went on, we lost a few of our key workers at a crucial time of the race. We lost Sep (Vanmarcke) because of a crash. Andreas (Klier) just didn’t quite have it to get into the key selection. When you have two or three guys who are looked on as the favorites and you don’t have anyone there to help them out of a group of 60-70 riders, it makes it real difficult to win,” said Garmin-Cervélo sport director Jonathan Vaughters.
“That put us in a bad position and we didn’t have too many options. At one point, we just had one rider in the front group of 60, so it’s difficult to win like that.”
The team was hoping for more, but it went down fighting. Vanmarcke was crashed in a pile-up coming off the Kwaremont, leaving the team leaders to fend for themselves in the final, decision “bergs” when the race was decided.
“I punctured, but I got a wheel change and I could come back to the front group again at the Kwaremont. I crashed on the downhill section. Everyone was fighting to be at the front and a rider crashed in front of me. I crashed into the grass. I wasn’t hurt too bad. I have some aches and pains, but nothing serious,” said Vanmarcke, who’s been impressive so far this spring.
“I couldn’t find my bike right away and when I did, the derailleur was damaged. By the time I got a new bike, I was already two minutes off the back. This was my second Flanders, but it’s different on a team as big and important as Garmin-Cervélo. And to have somebody like Klier, who knows the race inside and out, I really learned a lot from him today. I was hoping to be with the front group longer to help my teammates, but after my crash, it was impossible.”
Hushovd and Heinrich Haussler played their options, but couldn’t follow major accelerations by Cancellara. Farrar hung back in a chase group and was able to regroup coming into the finale, but it was too late to reel in Nuyens, French attacker Sylvain Chavanel and Cancellara, who rounded out the podium.
“It was a great race, it just didn’t unfold the way we liked it,” Vaughters concluded.
“It was a great race that played out between different teams and riders, so it was a great race to watch for sure. We were hoping for more. We’ve just got to figure out next time around how to get it right for our strategy. For Paris-Roubaix, we have it suits our guys on the day. We’re just going to hope for the best and hope to put things together like we know we can.”
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