When Garmin-Cervélo sprinter Tyler Farrar mounts his bike for the start of the 2011 Tour de France, he'll do so with a heavy heart. It's been a tumultuous year for Farrar and the cycling world as a whole after tragedy struck at the Giro d'Italia. A tragic death during the race put cycling in perspective, and hit Farrar hard as he prepared for the Tour de France.
Farrar's journey to France was filled with heartache this year after his training partner and friend, Wouter Weylandt, passed away after a tragic crash in the Giro d'Italia. The passing devastated Farrar and was the latest in a long line of incidents that hit close to home for the Wenatchee native.
Sadly Weylandt's death wasn't the first cycling-related tragedy Farrar has been forced to endure over the past decade. In April 2006 his friend and roommate Saul Raisin, a promising young American racing for Crédit Agricolé, crashed and suffered a head injury at the Circuit de la Sarthe - an injury that ended his career and nearly took his life. In October 2008 Farrar's father, Dr. Ed Farrar, a spinal surgeon, was hit by a car while riding his bike to work and lost the use of his legs.
Following Weylandt's accident in the Giro d'Italia, Farrar withdrew from the race, joining Weylandt's team, Leopard Trek, in walking away as a sign of respect for the fallen rider. In the weeks after the accident, Farrar struggled, both physically and emotionally. Disappointing finishes when he returned to racing led some to wonder if he was ready for the Tour de France, a notion he quickly dismisses.
The team dynamic on Farrar's team will be interesting to watch in the 2011 Tour de France. Thor Hushovd, a world-class sprinter and teammate of Farrar, will share the spotlight this year, sitting back in some stages and pushing in others. While Hushovd will likely make a run at the top spot in the first stage on Saturday, for the rest of the race the two will alternate as the team's top sprinter. Farrar and Hushovd will sacrifice at times for the better of the team, choosing the lead-sprinter based on whose ability best fits the stage.
For Farrar, it's all about taking small steps, walking before he runs. He's yet to win a Tour de France stage in his career, though he has won two stages in the Giro d'Italia. With a primary goal of breaking through to win a stage and the overall goal of team success in the Tour de France, Farrar is poised to breakthrough after a rough and emotional few weeks.
Keep an eye on Hushovd, Farrar and Mark Cavendish in the sprint stages. The three should be battling it out -- with Farrar and Hushovd working together -- throughout the Tour de France. And if the cards fall right, Farrar could finally snatch an elusive stage win in the 2011 Tour de France.
For the latest on Farrar's journey, stay with our Tour de France StoryStream. For more on the race, including full coverage and results, visit SB Nation's Tour de France StoryStream or stop by Podium Cafe.