When the Garmin-Cervelo cycling team held their first training camp of the 2011 season in Cayman at the end of last year, the team had big plans. However, with world champion Thor Hushovd newly signed to the team, as well as top US sprinter Tyler Farrar, there were whisperings that the team would have a tough time making room for the aspirations of both. Yet the first couple of days of the Tour de France has shown that not only is there room for both cyclists on the team, but together they can achieve more than the team could do before.
The aim of the camp, which saw the team members swim with the stingrays at the sandbar, visit numerous historical sites on the Island as part of a treasure hunt and even taking part in a exhibition race with local cyclists, served as a bonding exercise for the group and seems to have paid dividends.
On Sunday, Garmin-Cervelo claimed the first Tour de France stage win in the history of the organisation, which has been racing in the Tour since 2008. The team gained a narrow four second victory in the team time trial, an event which relies on everyone giving their all for the good of the team. Not only did the team earn their first stage victory, but Hushovd also claimed the leader’s yellow jersey as a result of a fine third place finish the day before. The yellow jersey was another first for the team, although Hushovd has worn the jersey on three previous occasions with other teams.
The victory in the team time trial was more important to the team than many casual observers might have realised. Ten years ago, in 2001, Jonathan Vaughters, now director sportif and CEO of the team, was part of a winning team in the team trial of the Tour de France, riding for the Credit Agricole team, along with Hushovd. However, that same time trial was one Garmin-Cervelo team leader Christian Vande Velde would rather forget, as on a wet day he crashed while riding for Lance Armstrong’s US Postal team, quite possibly costing the team a victory in the event as they sat up and waited for him and Roberto Heras, who also fell, to come back. For Vande Velde, the win with Garmin-Cervelo was redemption and he was not afraid to show it, posting on Twitter “Yes, yes, yes! This was a long time coming. Thankful.”
On the team’s website, Vaughters said he was very proud of the effort the team’s work in the time trial.
“Everyone on this team work harder than I’ve seen on a cycling team,” Vaughters said.
“To see everyone come together as a team is just unreal for our team to win our first Tour de France stage in this manner.”
Hushovd echoed the sentiments and said that taking the yellow jersey in the team time trial made it even more special.
“It’s a great joy to wear this yellow jersey. And it’s especially nice to win it with a team time trial, because when you win a stage, you count on your teammates, but only one goes to the podium. Today, we won as a team and we celebrate as a team,” Hushovd said.
However, after extensive celebrations, the team had to reset for the next stage, one which would favour a bunch sprint and their fast finishers like Farrar and Hushovd.
On stage three of the Tour on Monday, it came down to a bunch sprint and in a show of solidarity within the team, the yellow jersey himself did lead out work for Farrar, sacrificing his own chance of going for the win. It paid off handsomely, with Farrar taking his first Tour de France stage win, the second in as many days for the team, while Hushovd held onto the yellow jersey.
Farrar, who had come close to taking stage wins in previous editions of the Tour, was ecstatic.
“It’s a dream to win today. I was close the past few Tours, second, third, second, so to win a stage is incredible,” Farrar said.
“To have the world champion and yellow jersey leading you out is amazing. Our team was perfect today, with Millar and Dean and Hushovd. The first objectives were to win the team time trial and to win a stage. Now we’ll see what the rest of the Tour brings.”
Stage four was expected to be the end of the line for Hushovd’s yellow jersey run, as it featured a tough two kilometre climb up to the finish line, something ill suited to big sprinters like Hushovd. However, he produced the ride of the day, finishing in the same group as top climbers and overall contenders like Cadel Evans and Alberto Contador to cling to the yellow jersey.
Stage five was much more suited to Hushovd’s talents, with a flat, fast finish, but numerous crashes during the day brought down many of the overall contenders, including Contador and Robert Gesink. However, things were worse for young contender Janez Brajkovic of the Radioshack team, who left the race in an ambulance after a crash.
In spite of the chaos on the road, Garmin-Cervelo protected Hushovd and brought him to the line safely where he managed to sprint for tenth place and in so doing hang onto his yellow jersey for one more day.