REDON, France – Two months ago, Tyler Farrar was demoralized, sleeping 20 hours a day. He had even stopped riding, overcome by sorrow after his best friend died in a crash at the Giro d’Italia.
On Monday, Farrar became the first American to win a stage of the Tour de France on the Fourth of July. It was the first time he had won a stage in cycling’s showcase race, and he dedicated the victory to the late Wouter Weylandt of Belgium.
After crossing the finish line, Farrar, a sprint specialist from Wenatchee, Wash., held up his hands to form a “W” with his fingers and thumbs in tribute to Weylandt.
“This has been a horrible last two months with everything that happened in the Giro,” Farrar said. “I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. But in the end, I wanted to be able to come back, and do something special to pay tribute, and this is certainly the biggest stage in the world to do that.”
Farrar, who rides for Garmin-Cervelo, sped ahead in the last few hundred yards of the 123-mile course from Olonne-sur-Mer to Redon to win the third stage. He has now won a stage in each of cycling’s three-week major tours – France, Italy and Spain.
The previous American to win a Tour de France stage was Levi Leipheimer, who in 2007 was first in the individual time trial in Angouleme.
“I certainly would have taken it on any day,” Farrar said. “But as an American, winning on the Fourth of July, it’s the icing on the cake. … Lucky me.”
Norway’s Thor Hushovd kept the Tour de France’s yellow jersey. Hushovd, however, is a sprint specialist and is not expected to hold his lead through the mountains in the second and third weeks.
He could be pressured for the lead as soon as today when the pack travels 107 miles from Lorient to Mur de Bretagne with a super-steep, 1.2-mile uphill finish.
The top of the standings didn’t change much after the mostly flat trip into western Brittany that included a ride on a wind-swept suspension bridge over the famed Loire River.
Overall, Hushovd leads teammate David Millar of Britain, in second, by a split second. Cadel Evans of Australia of BMC is third, a second back. Three-time Tour champion Alberto Contador, who lost time Saturday after becoming entangled in a crash, is 69th – 1:42 behind the Norwegian.
Others looking to contend for the title on the Champs-Elysees on July 24 include 2010 runner-up Andy Schleck of Luxembourg and Bradley Wiggins of Britain.
Schleck is eighth overall and Wiggins is 10th, each four seconds off the lead.