Garmin-Transitions will be fueled by extra motivation for the Giro d'Italia's stage four team time trial on Wednesday, after Christian Vande Velde crashed out of the race on Monday afternoon. David Millar said that if victorious in the team time trial, the team will dedicate the stage win to their fallen teammate.
Due to the chaos of the Giro's finish into Middelburg on Monday, Millar didn’t learn about Vande Velde's crash and subsequent abandon until after the stage. Having fought hard to maintain his position in the front group, the Briton was justifiably proud of his performance. "It was crazy. But I'm getting quite good at this. Riding the Three Days of De Panne taught me the way to do it," he said.
But his pride turned to anger and despair when Cyclingnews told him about Vande Velde, and he understandably let out an angry string of expletives. Millar and Vende Velde have a special relationship that goes far deeper than just being teammates. They are both key founding members of the Garmin team and live close to one another in Girona, Spain. The two have different characters, different qualities as athletes and different objectives, but they have made those differences compatible and united them to create a strong partnership. Neither would perform as well without the support and friendship of the other.
Before flying to Italy to continue in the Giro d'Italia Millar sat with Vande Velde in a team car, consoling his friend as he fought the pain of his broken collarbone and tried to accept that he had crashed out of the Giro for a second consecutive year.
Millar was no doubt trying to convince Vande Velde that it would not affect his chances at the Tour de France and that he could be back to ride the Dauphiné Libéré or the Tour de Suisse.
All of the Garmin-Transitions riders leaned into the car and affectionately said goodbye, rubbing Vande Velde's head or squeezing his leg. The message was poignant and emotional: Don't give up man, fight back, you'll be back for the Tour.
Vande Velde told Cyclingnews that he had wanted to help Millar take the pink jersey by riding a strong team time trial on Wednesday. Now, Garmin-Transitions will be a rider down when they line up in Savigliano for the 33-kilometre stage, but they will be riding to win for Vande Velde.
"I know that Christian wanted to help me get pink. Now we want to get it for him and for all the team," Millar told Cyclingnews.
"We'll miss Christian, but I still think we're strong enough to do it. We know we can win it and get the pink jersey. Initially we thought we might be riding to get it for Tyler [Farrar] but now I've got a chance. I'd love to pull on the jersey."
As ever, Garmin-Transitions have worked hard at preparing for the team time trial. The course for Wednesday's stage is almost totally flat and on long straight roads. It will be more about pure speed and power than technique.
Even without Vande Velde the team is strong, with Svein Tuft, Cameron Meyer, Jack Bobridge, Tyler Farrar and Millar all world-class time trialists. Even Dan Martin and Murilo Fischer will be able to do their bit to help.
"We always work hard and we enjoy doing team time trials," Millar said.
"This one is a lot different to others. It's a lot easier, you don't need much technique because there aren't any corners. That means even the guys who aren't strong will be able to go much longer on the front because they won’t have to fight to deal with the changes in pace of cornering. It's going to make it a faster, very fast."
Despite several main contenders losing time on Monday, the overall classification at the Giro d'Italia remains close. Millar is third overall, one second behind Alexandre Vinokourov, with Ritchie Porte (Saxo Bank) second, on the same time as the Kazakhstani. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) is fourth at five seconds and Marcel Sieberg (HTC-Columbia) is fifth at seven seconds. Any one of them could take the pink jersey if their team wins on Wednesday.
The team time trial is only 33 kilometres long, but Millar predicts that is enough to create some significant gaps to the weaker time trial squads such as Carlos Sastre's Cervélo TestTeam and the BMC line-up of Cadel Evans.
"We're perhaps the favourites but there's not really one standout team. Sky will be good, Liquigas and Astana, too. It's going to be a real battle," Millar predicted.
"There is the potential to make some significant time gains. There will be decent gaps and some will lose time."