By Shane Stokes in Doha, Qatar
Team Slipstream Chipotle went within two seconds of taking the win on Sunday's opening stage of the Tour of Qatar. The burgeoning squad finished just behind Quick Step in the eight-kilometre test held in the country's capital of Doha, and will be motivated to chase the race lead today.
"We are really happy," said David Millar to Cyclingnews on Sunday evening. "The team rode really well. We were well disciplined, very smooth. Crossing the line, everybody had got everything out so we have got no regrets or nothing to reproach ourselves for. It is a good start.
"This is our first race together; this is the first time any of us have raced on the same team together. I think this is a result that we can be more than satisfied with. It bodes well."
Aside from psyching those riders at the race, the showing also has a motivating effect on everyone connected with the Slipstream Chipotle team.
"The management is really happy," Millar said. "I sent a message to Doug Ellis... he was very pleased as he has obviously been very nervous. He said he will be able to sleep well tonight, knowing we are on the right way. I spoke to the other guys at the training camp in Silver City and the result has given them all a morale boost. It is good on all fronts, everybody is very happy."
He said that he hadn't yet had a reaction from race organisers ASO, who are tipped to give Slipstream Chipotle a wildcard to the Tour de France. "I haven't bumped into Christian [Prudhomme] since the ride, but I am sure that they would have liked us to have won. It would be good for them [as the team was an invited wildcard]."
Millar and the rest of the team head into Monday's 137.5-kilometre second stage well within striking distance of the race lead. The stage runs from Al Zubarah to the Doha Golf Club and offers three-, two- and one-second time bonuses at the two intermediate sprints, as well as 10, six and four at the finish.
He said that they will leave it all to the final sprint. "Tomorrow we are just going to be going for the finish... the intermediate sprints don't interest us so much. It is Julian Dean's birthday, and we will be all working for him. We are going to put all our eggs in one basket and help him at the finish.
"We are going to try our lead-out train because again that is something that we have never done before, except in training. We get to do it a race situation, so it is quite exciting really."
Dean is a known fast finisher and so it is likely that he will be the team's GC rider for the rest of the race. However Chris Sutton is also quick and so he could also come into play.
"I think our two guys will be Julian and CJ [Sutton]," he stated. "They are both in good form... CJ is going very well. So this is going to be a good experience. I think that neither of them has experienced a full-gas lead-out train before, so I think this is going to be a good opportunity for them to show their true colours."
Whatever happens, this race also plays an important part in helping the team gel, get to know each other and to develop competitively. "To be honest, the next five days are going to be experimentation for us, learning how each of us race, where our strong points lie, and getting the lead-out train going. We will be trying different things all week as a result. We will do the lead-out train tomorrow [Monday], we might try something else out the next day. It is great race training as such; we are looking forward to it."
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