Tour de France: Millar shows incredible fighting spirit to make time cut
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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tour de France: Millar shows incredible fighting spirit to make time cut

by Conal Andrews at 6:06 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Injury
Longest time trial of his career sees Garmin-Transition rider finish mountain stage

David MillarGarmin Transitions rider David Millar pulled off one of his most notable performances on stage nine of this year’s Tour, but few were around at the finish to see the result. He busted a gut to get a result, yet his only reward was last place on the results sheet, and the licence to suffer again tomorrow.

Yet, to those who realise what he did, it was a remarkable achievement. The Scottish rider was dropped thirty kilometres after the start in Morzine-Avoriaz and from then he faced a long, lonely struggle. The time trial specialised faced the toughest battle against the clock of his career, and somehow made the time limit.

“Today represents a brand new entry into my top five worst-ever days on a bike,” the shattered rider admitted after the stage. “I spent 180 kilometers by myself convinced I was going to abandon or be eliminated.”

Millar’s normally one of the stronger riders in the peloton, as evidenced by his time trial victory in the Critérium International, but falls early on in this Tour have completely messed things up. “I crashed three times on stage two, and the third time I flipped over the handlebars and knew I’d really hurt myself. Ever since I’ve been battling injuries from that crash, plus a fever and stomach bug, and just basically hanging on for dear life.

“I started today motivated, but knew immediately something wasn’t right. My left side where I’d crashed just locked up and then my back started having spasms. I spent about three hours packing in my head.”

Millar could have called a halt to the struggle, climbing off his bike and getting into a team car or the broom wagon, but something pushed him to keep going. He’s spoken about a masochistic streak in the past and that attribute was dragged to the fore today, helping him to keep going long after the peloton had swept by.

“At 100 kilometers to go I was 30 minutes down on the leaders. All I could see in my head were the contours of the stage from the maps,” he said. “I broke it up into 5-kilometer climbs and kept thinking – I have to get through this. The fans on the side of the road were brilliant, they were cheering and telling me not to give up, and that made a huge difference for me.

“By the time I got to the finish, I didn’t know if I’d made the time cut – all I knew was that I’d finished. And at the Tour, it’s about finishing. This is not a race you want to leave, or one you’ll give up on without turning yourself inside out.”

Directeur sportif Matt White is a former pro rider and can understand clearly what Millar went through. He was impressed by the stubbornness shown, and also in what it meant to a Garmin-Transitions squad already trying to readjust after the withdrawal of Christian Vande Velde and the effect of a number of other crashes.

“What David did today shows both courage and a fierce dedication to his team,” he said, impressed. “He rode 175 kilometers solo after getting dropped on the first climb. He’s been suffering bruised ribs and fighting illness ever since stage two.”

Millar faces the prospect of another tough day in the saddle tomorrow, but the easier start could give him a chance to settle in and help him survive in the peloton for longer. Things are then a little flatter for several days, so he’ll summon up his courage again and dig deep to continue on.


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