It's not often that we have cause to interview a rider so soon after the last time we spoke. For David Millar though, the last month or so have seen a great deal of activity, making it worthwhile catching up again. Cyclingnews' UK Editor, Ben Atkins, had a good long chat with the new British Champion.
Having been a professional in Europe since he was nineteen, Millar rarely has cause to race in his home country. The rescheduled British National championships proved to be an exception though, and victory gave him the first red white and blue jersey of his career. Millar normally misses the championships in favour of preparing for the Tour de France, but when flooding in northern England forced the postponement of the race, Millar had a perfect opportunity to capture the red, white and blue jersey. "It's something that I've wanted my whole career, you know, " Millar admitted. "I hardly ever race in the UK – and being recognised as the UK's best riders for quite a while now – it's nice to have some sort of symbolism that goes with that."
As one of the few riders clad in a ProTour team kit, Millar might as well have had a gigantic target painted on his back, and he found himself closely marked by the predominantly domestic peloton - something that happens quite a bit when successful UK riders come home, and a tactic that makes winning the race that much harder. "It was worse than ever this time, there was only really me and Jez [Jeremy Hunt, Unibet.com -ed.] there, so once Jez had gone – he was [up the road] in a group of seven – I basically just had the whole race watching me. But I kind of expected that," he continued, "it's just that it's a horrible race in that respect, it was just very hard, and hard psychologically as well.
"If it had been really hilly it would have been easier for me tactically, but I had to go really hard. It doesn't matter how strong you are, it's hard when you've got 110 guys against you."
Now he's added the national championships to his palmares, Millar is also keen to take advantage of the compulsory perk that it brings, namely parading the classic red, white and blue jersey around. "Yeah, it's a nice jersey and it hasn't been out there in the big races for a while." He said, perhaps forgetting Roger Hammond's third place in Paris – Roubaix while wearing it, not to mention that Nicole Cooke has been destroying all in her path while sporting the women's version. "It would be nice for it to be recognised again. Especially as it's kind of appropriate with me going to a new team as well; it's a nice fresh start."
Millar won't have to worry about the red, white and blue clashing with the bright yellow of his Saunier Duval kit for long, as it was recently announced that he will move over to the Professional Continental outfit Team Slipstream next season. With the move, he leaves the ranks of the ProTour and the security for racing all the big events that comes along with it. The decision might surprise a few, but Millar is confident in his decision. "What, a few months ago, would have been seen as a step down, now people are seeing as more a step sideways, in that the team is going to be, as its main ambition, the same as the ProTour teams – on a slightly smaller scale, but solely on numbers rather than actual quality."
It's not surprising that an outspoken anti-doper is joining an outspokenly antidoping team, and for Millar, the team's attitude was an important factor in making the switch. "The whole ethos of the team is a breath of fresh air," Millar explained, "and it's putting the words of the last couple of years that I've had into actions, which is a big deal for me."
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