David Millar (Garmin-Transitions) was one of the few riders to find some kind of sadistic pleasure from racing in the terrible conditions on the dirt roads at the Giro d'Italia on Saturday.
Like everyone who made it to the finish, he was soaked to the skin and covered with mud from the Strade bianche but fought hard in the terrible conditions to finish 11th, 1:11 behind Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team). With so many of the overall race contenders losing time behind him, Millar moved up from seventh to third in the general classification standings. He is now 1:29 behind new race leader Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) and only 17 seconds behind Evans.
"Wow, what a day. It's one I'll never forget. I don't think anyone who rode will either," Millar told Cyclingnews after washing off the mud on the Garmin team bus.
"I actually enjoy it when it's like this. I think this is what racing is all about. In a way, the worse the conditions, the better I seem to go. In the end it was just mano-a-mano and it was actually a lot of fun."
"The roads round here are called strade bianche but they weren't white today. After just two kilometres of racing on them I looked at the guy next and thought' 'Is that what I look like?' We were like mud men."
Tip-toe on the last descent
Millar was in the front group that formed on the first section of dirt roads. He lost contact when Vinokourov and Evans surged clear on the dirt road climb but managed to finish ahead of Liquigas-Doimo pair Vincenzo Nibali and Ivan Basso, despite taking it steady on the descent towards Montalcino.
"I'm two or three kilograms over my ideal climbing weight. That is usually a handicap but I think it helped me in the cold and wet conditions," he told Cyclingnews.
"When everyone cracked on the last climb, I was still okay but then I bottled it on the last descent. After all I'd got through I was scared of crashing. I told myself there was no way I was going to crash and throw it all away in the last few kilometres so I tip-toed it on the last descent."
"It wasn't actually that bad riding on the dirt roads, it wasn't dangerous. The problem was the amount of dirt and water coming up into your eyes. There were moments when I was just blinded. When it happened going into a corner that was the worst. You couldn't see which line to take."
"I saw the crash on a sweeping corner, but I didn’t know that it was Nibali. We had no idea of what was going on but that's racing. It's a pity for Liquigas because they've ridden well so far. That's the just way it goes sometimes."