SAINT-FARGEAU, France – While Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador put aside their rivalry in Wednesday’s 11th stage of the Tour de France, Tyler Farrar almost became the first American rider to win a stage at this year’s race.
Farrar, of Wenatchee, was within half a bike length of catching British sprinter Mark Cavendish, who clinched his second consecutive win and fourth overall.
“It’s frustrating to come in second, but at the same time you can see there are only a few guys going that fast right now,” Farrar said after the stage. “Today was great. It was really fast from (the last) 2 kilometers (1.24 miles) to 500 meters (from the line).”
The 25-year-old Farrar, a U.S. junior national champion in 2002, upset Cavendish earlier in the season to win the third stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico race in Italy in March.
“I think (Tyler) is the best sprinter of his generation – apart from Cavendish,” Jonathan Vaughters, the manager of Farrar’s Garmin-Slipstream, told the Associated Press by telephone.
But on Wednesday, Farrar timed his run a bit too late. It was his third top-3 finish of the Tour.
“Maybe he’s not quite as fast, and he needs to figure out how to be a little bit more intelligent,” Vaughters said. “And we need to figure out how to be a little bit better as a team.”
With the win, Cavendish took possession of the green jersey as best sprinter. Rinaldo Nocentini of Italy held on to the overall leader’s yellow jersey.
“We’re all just trying to figure out how to get round Cavendish,” Vaughters said.
Cavendish also tied British rider Barry Hoban’s tally of eight Tour stage wins – he got four last year but failed to complete the Tour.
“You can talk all day about how great you are at the dinner table,” the 24-year-old Cavendish said. “Success is the biggest motivation for anyone.”
Armstrong, meanwhile, finished safely in the main pack in 54th place and remains in third place overall, with his Astana teammate Contador crossing the line in the 43rd spot, and still in second place overall.
The general classification stayed the same, with Nocentini leading Contador by six seconds. Armstrong, who did not stop for reporters waiting by his team bus, trails by eight seconds.