CAS’ lifting of Millar’s Olympic ban could spell gold for Great Britain in road and time trial
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Monday, April 30, 2012

CAS’ lifting of Millar’s Olympic ban could spell gold for Great Britain in road and time trial

by Ben Atkins at 7:24 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping, Olympics
 
Allowing the most experienced British rider to participate considerably improves both Cavendish and Wiggins’ changes for London glory

david millarAlthough the British Olympic Association (BOA) has yet to make a comment ahead of the official announcement, which is due this afternoon, the Court for Arbitration in Sport (CAS) has overturned the BOA rule that bans those caught doping for life. News sources, including the BBC, have reported that the CAS has found that the rule, which was introduced in 1992, is contrary to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code.

The ruling paves the way for Garmin-Barracuda’s David Millar to participate in the Olympic Games in London in the summer. While the Scot is unlikely to take a medal himself, his presence could greatly improve the chances of both Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins (both Team Sky) in the road and time trial events.

Millar has been an integral part of the Great Britain team at several World championships, and was the captain of the eight-man team that delivered Mark Cavendish to his rainbow jersey in Copenhagen, Denmark, last year. The fact that Millar was ineligible for London 2012 meant that a sizeable piece of the Copenhagen jigsaw would be missing, which could have had a seriously detrimental effect on the World champion’s chances of taking Olympic gold.

While Millar himself seldom called for an end to the ban, and has declined to challenge it himself, Cavendish spoke last year about his wish for the 34-year-old to be included.

“If we want to win the Olympic road race, we need Dave,” Cavendish told the BBC in December. “If you want to win and make history, you need a group of people around you.”

There have been mixed opinions expressed from various high profile members of the British team since then, with Wiggins - whose personal relationship with Millar over the years has been mixed, to say the least - commenting in January that, while the team would be stronger with Millar on board, the ban was just.

“From a purely selfish point of view, it would be great to have Dave on the start line,” the recent Tour de Romandie winner told the BBC. “But [morally] he should never be able to do the Olympics again.”

Sir Chris Hoy, a four-time Olympic gold medal winner - which earned him his knighthood after taking three in the Beijing games - went further, commenting this month that the ban should stay and that Millar should not be allowed to ride.

"It will be sad if we have to fall in line with the rest of the world," he told the BBC. "I don't see anything wrong with having more stringent rules. I think it should be the rest of the world that's falling in line with our rules.”

It seems however, that - pending the official announcement - Hoy has not got his wish and, barring a disaster for the Garmin-Barracuda rider, an in-form Millar will be a shoo-in for the Great Britain team for the Olympic road race on July 28th. Great Britain’s head coach Dave Brailsford has confirmed that he will pick the strongest team from the pool of eligible riders, and this seems sure to include Millar.

Millar’s legs and head could make all the difference for both Cav and Wiggo

As well as Millar’s strength as a rouleur, which saw him take a prominent role as Great Britain controlled the latter stages of the the Copenhagen road race, the Scot’s 15 years at some of the sport’s top teams give him more experience than any other British rider. The 34-year-old’s legs - but more importantly his head - could be what makes the difference for Cavendish in London.

While the road race is widely regarded to end in a sprint, with Cavendish the hot favourite, the rest of the peloton will be putting pressure on the Great Britain team to control the race. Without a rider like Millar, the task would be all the more difficult, and possibly lead to the race going to a successful breakaway, or Cavendish being disadvantaged in a sprint finish.

As well as improving the chances of Cavendish in the road race, Millar’s presence and strength could greatly help the cause of Wiggins in the time trial four days later. After taking the silver medal in Copenhagen, Gent-born Londoner Wiggins will go into the 44km event as one of the favourites for a medal - along with Switzerland’s defending champion Fabian Cancellara and Germany’s World champion Tony Martin - but his chances could have been compromised if he was called upon to do too much in the road race.

Wiggins was also one of Cavendish’s hard-working domestiques in Copenhagen, but Millar’s absence from the team in London could have forced him to do too much, which could cost him a few days later.

As a former Worlds medallist himself, Millar will also likely be handed Great Britain’s second place in the time trial.

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