By Peter Hymas
David Millar has spent quiet, quality time preparing for the 2009 season at Garmin-Slipstream's European base in Girona, Spain, benefiting from the team's uniquely timed initial training camp and a more traditional start to his racing campaign.
"It's been more relaxed this winter, a lot different than last year. We don't have the pressure that we had at the start of year with a lot to prove," said Millar to Cyclingnews. "The fact that we're ProTour and have guaranteed selection to races, we can kind of get back to the sporting aspect of it all.
"One of the nice things with this team is that we have an early winter get together in November which leaves us an almost two-month uninterrupted period after that to settle down at home and just get into a routine and train well," continued Millar. "I made the most of that and stayed in Girona the whole time. Most other teams have their camps in the middle of December or the beginning of January so it all kind of gets disrupted."
A factor contributing to Millar's relaxed demeanor is a reversion to his traditional race schedule with an initial mid-March peak rather than 2008's blazing form unleashed much earlier in January's Tour of Qatar and February's Tour of California. "For the moment my first race is the Tour Méditerranéen starting February 11, then Vuelta a la Comunidad Valenciana, Paris-Nice, Milano-Sanremo and then Criterium International. That's the first wave and then I'll take almost the whole of April off racing. I'll start my Tour build-up which will be [Tour de] Romandie, [Volta Ciclista a] Catalunya, [Critérium du] Dauphiné Libéré, my national championships and then the Tour de France. Later on in the year I'll be doing the Tour of Spain."
Millar and his coach Adrie van Diemen have applied the physiological data acquired during 2008 to Millar's current training regimen. "What we learned is that I get fit very quickly which means I have to relax and choose the moments very carefully when I'm on a very strict training program," said Millar. "I do tend to nail them and not miss a session and before I know it I'm way ahead of schedule with my fitness which isn't a good situation since it's such a long season. This year I haven't started my real strict training, my interval program, until only two days ago on January 6."
Millar pointed out the races which are most important to him in 2009. "There are those three weeks for Paris-Nice and the Criterium International where I want to be good and then it's going to be the Dauphiné and the Tour de France. I'd love to win that first stage of the Tour but we've also got the team time trial.
"I'm no longer in a position on a Tour team where I can just do what I want. We have Christian [Vande Velde] who's become such a player when it comes to GC in the Grand Tours that I'll actually have very few opportunities to seize the day, if you like. For me, more than likely it will be the first day and possibly a transition stage later on in the race. It's actually very calculated because the rest of the time I'll be looking after Christian."