Mark Cavendish and his HTC-Highroad team previewed yesterday’s Tour de France stage to Redon during their post Giro d’Italia training camp. American Tyler Farrar skipped it. He was dealing with the death of a close friend and deciding if he’d even race the Tour de France.

He decided to and yesterday, won his first Tour stage.

“I had my doubts he was going to ride the Tour at all,” Garmin-Cervélo’s general manager, Jonathan Vaughters told Cycling Weekly.

“Once he decided to, I knew he’d be up to the task. His morale’s good now.”

“This has been a horrible past two months with everything that happened in the Giro – lots of ups and downs,” Farrar said in a press conference. “But I wanted to be able to come back and do something special to pay tribute to Wouter [Weylandt].”

Farrar stopped racing on May 9 at the Giro d’Italia after his close friend, Wouter Weylandt died during the day’s stage to Rapallo. Though his Garmin team continued with David Millar in the race lead, Farrar abandoned with Weylandt’s Leopard-Trek team after the next day’s tribute stage.

It took him some time to get back on his bike and not until one month later, did he race again. It left him little time for train for the Tour, let alone preview stages.

“We did that one month ago, after the Giro,” HTC’s sports director, Valerio Piva told Cycling Weekly. “The team time trial, the final of the first stage, this stage and Wednesday’s.”

Cavendish won yesterday’s intermediate sprint for sixth place behind the escape, but was later disqualified for bumping shoulders with Thor Hushovd. He was held up in the final bend of the sprint to the finish line and lost a chance for win number 16 at the Tour. Instead, Farrar zoomed ahead – on the wheels of team-mates Thor Hushovd in the leader’s yellow jersey and Julien Dean – for win number one.

The win was born back at the intermediate sprint. Farrar, unlike Cavendish, decided to focus solely on the final sprint.

“He wanted to save his legs,” Vaughters continued. “It proved to be the right move.”

Farrar, Cavendish and the rest of the peloton continue today in a stage to Mûr-de-Bretagne. The next chance for a sprint will be on tomorrow in Cap Fréhel.

Tyler Farrar wins, Tour de France 2011, stage three

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