By Gregor Brown in Angoulême
David Millar was targeting the 55.5-kilometre time trial on the penultimate day of the Tour de France as a prime opportunity for a stage win, but all his hopes were dashed within the first kilometres when his rear disc wheel gave way in a dramatic fashion. After two bike changes, Millar said his concentration was blown, and he finished well behind stage winner Levi Leipheimer in 87th place nearly eight minutes slower.
"The Mavic disc exploded in the first five hundred metres," Millar explained at the finish. "The rim just ripped off the carbon, twice. I did not give up and I headed for the first time check, saying 'if I was a minute or under then I would keep going.'" Instead, he was close to two minutes behind then leader Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d'Epargne).
"The first one literally exploded. I went another 300 metres and that one went as well. The car was right there, he had to take the wheel off of Iban's [Iban Mayo - ed.] bike and put into this one because he did not have time to change the first one.
Millar lamented his lost chances. "It was a perfect stage for me. It was a beautiful route." After the finish he seemed resigned, and explained, "I had time to ride off my aggression."
Overall, the Tour went well for the 30 year-old Scot even considering the constant doping scandals which hit the Astana, Cofidis and Rabobank squads. Despite feeling that his form was not at the right point when he started the Tour, he showed he was a valuable domestique for the mountain stages, and factored in the breakaways. Millar is now looking to the near future for his results. "In a few weeks I will be able to race at my best. I had a really good time even with all the crap all around [the Tour]. My personal race, has been good."
There have been mutterings about a possible riders' protest on the Champs-Elysees on Sunday, but even the vocally antidoping Millar wasn't sure if that was a good idea. "If there is enough support and we know what we are protesting about, but in my opinion that is not the solution.
"There are going to be tens of thousands of people on the Champs-Élysées wanting to watch us race up and down it, and it is up to us to race up and down it. It is up to the authorities, and us as riders [to fight doping], and we need to show some cohesion, but at the same time we have to race. If we stop all the people there won't understand why, because half of the riders won't understand what we would be protesting about."
"I think it is best if we get on with race."