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Millar embraces 'gladiator' mentality in Flanders

Stage 3b and overall winner David Millar (Garmin Transitions)

Stage 3b and overall winner David Millar (Garmin Transitions)
(Image credit: Sirotti)

David Millar's last overall stage race success was in 2003 at the Tour of Picardie but the 33-year-old Garmin-Transitions rider rolled back the years taking the Three Days of De Panne on Thursday thanks to a decisive win in the time trial.

"De Panne is one of those races in the professional peloton that's feared and respected so to coming here my fellow professionals think you're crazy for doing De Panne so to be here and win the GC on what has been a particularly dirty and hard De Panne, I'm very proud of," Millar told the press.

Millar began to show his form at last month Criterium International, where he beat Alberto Contador in the final time trial but his adaptation to the style of racing in Belgium has been successful and puts him in a strong position ahead of Flanders this weekend.

"It's a different style of racing up here. I'm used to going to race and watching it crumble around me and I move up and it's all gentlemanly and sedate, whereas up here it's gladiatorial and you've got to fight, you can't make one mistake, you've got to be aggressive and so I've managed to get that into my head."

Millar built his victory by embracing this mindset from the start of the race. He formed part of an escape on the first tricky stage and was one of a handful of riders to stay clear of the bunch at the finish.

His credentials were tested to the full on yesterday's stage. With brutal winds and driving rain, his Garmin-Transitions team were forced to chase for most of the stage after a group attacked and build up a strong lead. The American team's race wasn't helped when race organisers were forced to cut the stage in length; meaning Millar's men had to recalculate their chase effort.

"We nearly got stuffed by them shortening the race. We based our chase on a race of 214K on 188K, so we nearly got stuffed but we pulled Pate out of the break and if you look at it, that won us the race," said team director Matt White.

Coming into the time trial Millar was fourth overall and although Luca Paolini lead the race, Andry Grivko was regarded by many as the main threat to Millar's challenge. However after the half-way point in the 14.7 kilometre test the Astana rider was already 24 seconds down. By the finish the gap to Millar's winning time was 47 seconds and the Briton had a lead of 35 seconds in the overall standing.

"I'm very happy," Millar said after crossing the line. "I've got the fastest time, so lucky I dropped Westra yesterday, hey? I'm very happy with that result. It's been a horrible three days and not exactly the easiest way to win a race."

While the result never looked in doubt after the first time check bar a major shock, White still had the responsibility of keeping Millar up to date with time checks.

"Going into the last two corners we were twenty two seconds up and I said to David no more risks and his back wheel is skipping everywhere, he can't help himself. To sit behind him in a time trial is a frightening experience. It's either win or crash, he takes such big risks but he's such a good bike handler."