David Millar said he was "excited" by the prospect of competing at the London Olympics following this morning's confirmation that he has been selected for the five-man team for the road race. "I think it's going to be an amazing race and it's going to be quite a spectacle," said Millar before the start of stage four of the Tour de France.
Millar was sidelined from the past two Olympics having received a lifetime ban from the British Olympic Association as a result of his 2004 ban for doping. Following the World Anti-Doping Agency's successful challenge of this ban, Millar was selected for Great Britain's initial eight-man road cycling team last month.
"It means a lot, it's a lot different for me than for a lot of other competitors," said Millar. "It was an event I wrote off many years ago. I've already missed two. The first of those I was in a drunken haze, as far away from the world of sport as humanly possible. But when Beijing came around it was pretty hard to avoid the realisation of how hard it was not being there."
Millar admitted he had mixed emotions when WADA announced their decision to challenge the BOA's imposition of lifetime bans for those guilty of doping offences. "It threw me into turmoil a bit. I've put a lot of thought into this, I've been very rational about it. I've spoken to a lot of people and I feel that I've almost got a duty to go now," said the Garmin-Sharp rider.
"I think I made the right decision to put myself up and I'm very proud that the team has seen fit that I won't be a hindrance and I can be a positive influence. I want to help. I also want to help Mark [Cavendish] win the gold medal."
Asked about how he thinks he might be viewed in the run-up and during the Games, Millar replied: "I have been concerned about wanting to be a help rather than a hindrance going into the Games. The road race is one of the first events of the Games and it features one of Britain's biggest sportsmen going for the gold medal, so I think there was a risk that I might become a negative story in the build-up. All of a sudden it could be about ‘Millar the drug cheat'. I'd liked to think that the tide has turned and that people are starting to understand my full story and my reasons for going, and I'm hoping that will calm that negative turmoil."
Millar will be Team GB's captain on the road at the Olympics and said the challenge of winning the gold medal is daunting. "It's not like the Worlds in Copenhagen where we had a team of nine, it was a flat course and we could rely on Cav's undoubted genius. This one's going to be tactical and incredibly physical. I think it's going to be the hardest thing we ever do as a team, that's for sure.
"I'll sit down with Rod [Ellingworth] beforehand and we'll have to go through numerous scenarios. Then I'll have to speak to other team captains. Cycling's a strange one because we have to form alliances. We'll have to look at the other team selections and see who will be relying on similar tactics to us and then it will be up to me probably to then go and speak to those teams and come to a gentleman's agreement, saying ‘Look, we both want it to end in a sprint. Let's come to an agreement.' Then there are going to be other teams who are going to make it their mission to stop us from getting there. It's a bit mission impossible, but I think Cav's shown in the past that that is his specialty."
Millar paid tribute to the support he has been given by Cavendish, who pushed for the Scot's selection for the Olympics. "Cav's Cav – he's a gentleman. In spite of his rather chaotic personality, underneath it all he's a really decent guy and he never really hid his emotions or beliefs. He believed that I deserved to go and I think that went beyond his need for me. I think he believed that I actually had the right to do it. He wasn't scared to say what he thought, and I think I owe it to him to pay that back in one way or another."
Is there an alternative strategy if Cavendish's chances of success don't pan out, Millar was asked. "No, Mark is our Plan A, Plan B, Plan C…"
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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