One for the ages

Millar battles the elements in the Vuelta prologue

Well that was a bit crap. The weather was always going to be a bit of a lottery today, since first thing this morning it has been intermittent torrential rain and blue skies, with a fairly strong wind to add a little spice. So on leaving the hotel we knew that our prologue ride was going to be basically a luck of the draw affair.

That didn't make it any easier when a freaking typhoon blew in while I was standing behind the start ramp awaiting my departure time. Then watching Barredo crash on the built-for-Spain-not-designed-for-rain start ramp two minutes before I was to roll down the same start ramp made the whole scene comical. Inaki was telling me not to take any risks (he obviously knows me better than I do) and that I could go for it in Valencia.

I thought I listened to this advice, but evidently my not taking risks still involved me going a little bit too fast. I somehow got round the circuit at over 50 km/h average in what can only be described as apocalyptic conditions. The wind was blowing so strong, in a gusty gale sort of way, and the rain was so heavy that for the first time I was actually not comfortable with my 1080 front wheel. I changed my 'relaxed caressing the handlebars TT grip' to 'hanging on for dear life hold the bike in a straight line grip.'

The first 2 kilometres had been so hairy that when I came out of a corner to find a Lampre car parked bang on the racing line I was able to take it in stride and squeeze between it and the barriers. That was just par for the course by that point.

It’s a bit disappointing to have felt so good and not be able to convert it into a result, but considering the circumstances I'm satisfied. I felt very strong and fast when I did get a straight line... At least I didn't suffer a crash as Ryder and Dan did, they both went down on the same corner where many others also crashed - not a nice way to start a Grand Tour that.

As for us being in Holland and racing on a motor circuit, all I can say is, genius. I remember when I used to look at old black and white photos of bike racing when it would finish in stadiums that were packed to the brim with people. I thought that was a thing of the past, and in all truth thought that we were going to face empty stands today. So when we approached the circuit and began to realise that the massive traffic jams were people coming to watch the race we were a little baffled.

This bafflement turned into wonder as it became clear the place was rammed, so much so I started taking photos because it seemed like one of those moments that I'd seen photos of. When we got through to our pit where we were to warm up, I immediately walked through to look at the track and the stands. They were full to the brim just like in the old black and white photos and the Dutch commentator was working them into a frenzy.

It really was something quite special and I can't imagine what it was like being a Dutch rider. There would be a wall of sound every time they started or finished.

Unforgettable.

Still, pity about the bloody typhoon.
 

Author: David Millar
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