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Robert Millar: Hard Times

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Robert MIllar pulls on the polka-dot jersey

Robert MIllar pulls on the polka-dot jersey (Image credit: AFP)
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Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge) in yellow in Albi.

Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge) in yellow in Albi. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

The Tour is a tough environment. It's not only the riders who are desperate to do something notable in the first week, there's also the infamous Jury of Commissaires to consider. Often accused of being heartless, they obviously thought they would get in there early with the low punches as soon as the race arrived back on the mainland. Cue the the Ted King elimination and the Tony Martin rainbow bands fine. One of the first things you learn to do when you arrive at the Tour is to synchronise your watch to Tour Time. It might be different to real world time by seconds or even minutes, but it's no good arguing about it because from that moment forth, it's the only time that matters. Once ASO hands out the accreditation, you are in their world.

The fateful 7-second decision that condemned Ted King back to civvy street was rather harsh, particularly when the Cannondale rider disputed the timing but maybe that just sealed his fate even more.

Then there's the 2000 Swiss Franc smacking for world time trial champion Tony Martin. You would have thought being champion meant he could wear the rainbow bands for all time trials but apparently not. I can just about see the reasoning that it's a team event and he's the individual champion – but no bands allowed on his bike? How does that work? Omega Pharma are world champions at that discipline as well. The commissaires sometimes wonder why they get a reputation for being UCI tax collectors but you can see why.

Two stages define what the week's stages have been all about. The team time trial – 58 kph, 25 km and barely over 25 minutes – was just amazing, and then there was the Albi stage where Cannondale set about the other sprinters. The Friday stage was one of those sticky days anyway – hot, breathless and never-ending – but the contest unleashed for the green jersey competition soon indicated what's to come over the weekend in the Pyrenees. Roughly half the riders getting dropped on only a 2nd cat climb doesn't bode well for those poor souls. The tactics paid off for Sagan as he has now a sizeable lead for the points competition and he got his stage win. That would have been eating him as the other three big sprinters of Kittel, Cavendish and Greipel all had their trip to the podium.

Definitely been Orica-GreenEdge's week though, a stage in Corsica, the team time trial win and the yellow jersey for Simon Gerrans and then Daryl Impey. They would have signed up for just one of those happenings never mind all of them and after their previous Tour disappointment, it's Christmas come early for the Australian squad.

Heading into the first mountain battles for the GC the main favourites are remarkably close, so we ought to see some fireworks to sort out the standings. Guys like Froome, Evans and Contador have all been paying attention, same with van Garderen, Quintana and Valverde. The lesser lights, Rodriguez, Martin and Rolland might show too, though the latter looks like he wants to continue with his push for the Climbers jersey. And matching shorts, and helmet and gloves.

Twitter campaign to buy him some black shorts, please.

The Week's Awards

The Bubblegum Award for Garmin's team time trial outfits. Described as sweet by one 11-year-old who knows about shiny things.

The Jens Voigt Award goes to Cyril Gautier of Europcar for the same wobbly front wheel style and intention to hurt himself as much as possible.

The Joker Award to Jan Bakelants for his cheery interviews and general happiness.

The Invisible Man prize is awarded to Damiano Cunego, if he hadn't punctured on the sixth stage and then complained bitterly no one would have even known he was there.

The Journey (Don't Stop Believing) Award to Cannondale for their unrelenting love of all things Sagan.

And last but not least the Bike of the Week is RadioShack's glorious light blue Trek Madone 7.


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Robert Millar was one of the last pure climbers of the Tour de France, winning several stages in the mountain stages and finishing fourth overall in 1984. He is also the only English speaker to have ever won the prestigious polka-dot jersey climber's competition jersey.

Millar retired in 1995 but has continued to follow the sport closely. He was often critical of the media and quickly cuts through the excuses and spin to understand why and how riders win and lose.