Very few riders - no matter their achievements - have the luck to determine the perfect moment to hang up their wheels and retire. It’s generally a case of a quiet swansong or an unforeseen event that speeds up the inevitably end to a professional career.
David Millar is hoping he fits squarely into the former as he targets a strong ride in the Tour de France before a taking on the Commonwealth Games and a possible ride at the Vuelta a Espana.
Fourteen years ago in Futuroscope the Scot announced himself on the world stage, beating Lance Armstrong on the opening day of the 2000 Tour de France and beginning what would be a rollercoaster career that often saw him in the spotlight. Now, his final Tour de France is just a matter of weeks away and although his season to date has yielded few results, Millar believes that he has one last major win in his legs.
“For sure, 100 per cent, I still have something inside me,” he told Cyclingnews on the first day of the Criterium du Dauphine in Lyon.
“That’s what has been in the back of my mind all year. It doesn’t really matter what you do for the year but if you do well at the Tour then you’ve had a good season. The Tour is the race that has meant the most to me during my whole career so I’d like to guarantee that I can be good there and that meant being on the backburner at the start of the year.”
Millar has built up form slowly this calendar year. At the Classics, a regular part of his season in the latter years of his career, saw him take on the role of road captain at Garmin-Sharp. The Dauphine marks a point where Millar will be looking to step.
“My form is a lot better than it has been. I don’t think my time trial performance is very representative of my overall form but it’s coming up all the time,” he said after crossing the line in 74th place.
“But my head is so fixed on the Tour and the Commonwealth Games and hopefully the Vuelta as well. I had a job to do in the Classics which was road captain, and that meant that although I was doing a lot of work you didn’t really see many results for it. Up to now I’ve been working for the team in the background so come the Tour I should get my opportunity one day.”
“I’m here to get through the race fit and healthy. To help Andrew Talansky, help Ryder Hesjedal who should also be able to do a good ride here and once again be a road captain.”
Team Wiggins or Team Froome?
While Millar has concentrated on his own progress and form in recent weeks he certainly hasn’t remained oblivious to the sport around him.
The Tour starts in Yorkshire in less than a month and signifies a special moment for British riders within the peloton. Every British rider, Millar included, wants to be there but Bradley Wiggins has recently announced that Team Sky would not be taking him to the race. Millar and Wiggins know each other well and rode together at Garmin before Wiggins’ shift to Team Sky. Millar admitted that he can see both sides of the argument surrounding whether the 2012 Tour winner should be selected this time around.
“Dave Brailsford as we’ve seen, always makes rational decisions. It’s very brave one from him, that’s for sure. But at the same time all they're interested in is winning the Tour. So I guess they think their best chance might be without Bradley there. I don’t think they’ll have taken the decision lightly and although it goes against what a lot of the British public, the media and the sponsors would like, the bottom line is that they want to win the Tour,” Millar told Cyclingnews.
“We all know that Brad has a special personality and evidently Chris must do as well. If you want to win the Tour de France you have to be a bit of a special dude. I think Brailsford understands that you can only have one special dude in each team and they’ve chosen the one that gives them the most chance of winning.”