Race-saving stage victory for Garmin-Sharp
While one British rider dominates the Tour for the first time, stage 12 to Annonay Davezieuz saw another turn back the clock, with David Millar (Garmin-Sharp) winning his first Tour de France stage since 2003.
The 35-year-old Garmin-Sharp rider formed part of the day's main break and used his experience and guile in the closing kilometres to take a memorable stage win. As for his team, which he partly co-owns, it was a race-saving day after the squad had lost Ryder Hesjedal and Tom Danielson in the opening week of racing.
Millar's win was a poignant moment for two other reasons. As an ex-doper, a tag Millar is rare to shy away from, the stage signified Millar's first individual Tour stage win since his comeback from suspension. And on the 45th anniversary of Tom Simpson's tragic death on the slopes of Mont Ventoux, Millar admitted that the win had more than the typical emotional significance.
"Yes I've won in the past but today is very special, it's the 45th anniversary since Tom Simpson's death and it's very emotional. It's also a symbol. I'm a rider who has made mistakes and I'm an ex-doper but I'm clean now and it's very important to show what you can do when you're a clean rider. That you can win races," he said.
Millar's career, with its bright start at Cofidis, followed by the drugs and then his second chance, has stood out as one of the most important chapters in cycling's recent past. Millar is a rider who broke the rules, learned his lesson and now is a clear advocate for clean sport and transparency.
"I don't think there's any point in hiding [the past]. The reason I was given a second chance was because I have a duty not to forget where I came from and to remind people of where our sport has been. I'm quite representative of our sport as a whole I think, so we're in a great place and the future is looking very rosy but I don't think we should forget the past."
As well as losing riders through crashes Garmin was also linked to USADA's investigation of Lance Armstrong and several other individuals from the former US Postal team. De Telegraaf published a story during the opening week of the Tour consisting of incorrect information and naming several current riders from Garmin as part of the witness list in the case.
When asked about the subject in his winner's press conference, Millar stressed that the racing aspects of the Tour had been the most challenging encounters for the team.
"We came into this race with Ryder Hesjedal who won the Giro, who won the Giro clean, and we're very proud of what we do as a team and for our sport. We came here five years ago with a mission to help change the sport and prove to people that it could be done different. We're transparent and profess that we're clean and I'm incredibly proud of my team. The reason it's been rough is because we lost Hesjedal, and Tommy D.
"We came here to get the podium on GC and win the teams classification so we've had to very quickly change our objectives and that's what has been tough for us. I think we've proved our character by not missing a break in the last five or six day, and today winning, and that's what I'm proud of."