Photo Special: Good-Bye David Millar
Photo Special: David Millar seems to have been around for ages, 18 years as a Pro to be exact, but you need to take two years away for a doping ban. Love him or hate him, he has a fine palmarés. If you want to believe in him or not is up to you, but he still was a grand champion.
Of all the riders who have retired at the end of season ’14; David Millar probably causes more discussion than any other. Be he doper, ex-doper, reformed doper or as I’ve heard a few times, “he’s not Scottish!” He was a trail blazer in a time before any Lottery money or Sky backing British cycling. David Millar did it the hard way and had a full and varied career.
Millar was born in Malta of Scottish parents; his father was a pilot in the British air force and the family moved around due to his work. They next moved to Scotland and then to the South of England where his parents separated and his father moved to Hong Kong where David joined him at 13 years of age and started to cycle.
The young pro David Millar in 1997
He moved back to England and began to race with the local cycling club and planned to go to art school when he was 18. A racing trip to Picardy and eight wins put a stop to that plan and he turned Pro in 1997 for the Cofidis team, under the management of Cyrille Guimard who had guided Bernard Hinault, Laurent Fignon and Greg Lemond, amongst many other champions.
In GB colours at the Sydney Olympics 2000
In his 1st year he won the prologue in the Tour de l’Avenir, followed in 1998 by two stages in l’Avenir, one in the 3 Days of De Panne and 2nd overall in the Tour du Poitou-Charentes.
Tour de France Yellow jersey in 2000
1999 showed he was a top performer with: 2nd Overall in the Critérium International, 3rd in the Tour de Vendée and Gran Premio di Chiasso and 4th Overall in the Étoile de Bessèges and the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana with the KOM classification. He also won the Manx International.
They were friends then, but later…not
Second in the World TT to Jan Ullrich was hard to take
His first big win came in the 2000 Tour de France where he won the 16 kilometer time trial stage 1 in the Futuroscope park to take the Yellow jersey, which he held for a few days. He was also 4th Overall in the Circuit de la Sarthe and won the best Young Rider classification and a stage win in the Route du Sud. Millar represented Britain in the time trial at the Sydney Olympics
Tour prologue and that slipped chain cost him a repeat of the Yellow jersey
2001 saw a big jump in his performance: Two stage wins in la Vuelta a España, overall winner in the Danmark Rundt (+ best Young Rider), overall and 2 stage wins in the Circuit de la Sarthe (+ best Young Rider), stage win in Euskal Bizikleta, 2nd in Paris-Camembert, 3rd overall in the Tour de Wallonie and 4th overall in the Tour of Picardie. But there was disappointment in the Tour de France and the World time trial championships. His chain came off in the Tour prologue in Paris, which he would have won and he finished 2nd in the World championships to Jan Ullrich who looked to have been pacing with another rider.
Prologue winner in the Dauphiné
2002 was not as good a year; one stage win in the Tour and a 3rd place in a Vuelta stage and 2nd overall in the Clásica de Alcobendas.
A Tour stage win in 2002 wasn’t that bad
Then in 2003 the form returned; a Tour stage and 2nd in the prologue, Vuelta stage win and two 2nd places, overall in Picardie, prologue in the 3 Days of West-Vlaanderen, stage in Burgos and 3rd in the Classique des Alpes and the Dauphiné Libéré. And not to forget a World time trial title.
2003 Vuelta a España stage 17, another win
Then in 2004 everything went wrong. While having dinner in Biarritz with David Brailsford, who at the time was the top man at British Cycling and now runs the Sky team, Millar was arrested by the Paris drug squad. They searched his house and found used syringes and empty phials of EPO. Millar confessed to the police that he had used the drug in 2001 and 2003. He was banned for 2 years from June the 24th 2004 and was fined and lost his World TT title and his wins in la Vuelta and Dauphiné.
His ban ran out the week before the 2006 Tour de France and was on the start line with the Spanish Saunier Duval-Prodir team, his best place being 11th in the last time trial and finishing 59th overall.
Millar showed off his Rainbow stripes in Paris-Nice in 2004
In the 2006 Vuelta a España he won the stage 14 time trial in Cuenca and at the end of the year became British pursuit champion on the track.
2007 saw Millar win both the British road race and time trial championships and the prologue of Paris-Nice and came very close to taking the overall in the Eneco Tour, finishing 11 seconds down on José Gutierrez (Caisse d’Epargne).
Another jersey in the Tour de France, 2007
For the 2008 season he moved to Slipstream-Chipotle, which became the Garmin team and had a solid season, helping the team win the opening team time trial in the Giro d’Italia and finishing 2nd overall in the Tour of California. He was also 9th in the Worlds TT and 3rd in stage 4 of the Tour de France.
2009 gave him more good Grand Tour performances with a stage win and a 2nd place in la Vuelta and second places in Giro and Tour stages.
And British road champion in the same year
2010 was his best year after his doping ban. Overall win in the 3 Days of De Panne and a stage win, 1st in the Chrono des Nations and Commonwealth Games time trial and 2nd to Fabian Cancellara in the Worlds TT. Third in the Tour de France prologue and a stage win and 5th overall in the Critérium International.
A failed late attack into Barcelona nearly brought a Tour’09 stage win
Pink jersey in the 2011 Giro d’Italia
The 2011 season was his last at the top of his game. In the Tour de France he was part of the winning time trial team in stage 2 and won the individual time trial stage 21 in the Giro d’Italia and was 2nd on stage 3. Second overall in Beijing and 3rd in both the Circuit de la Sarthe and Eneco Tour. Millar was part of the British team that piloted Mark Cavendish to his World Road race championship title at the end of the year.
Bad luck in E3 Prijs in Harelbeke
2012 still had a Tour stage win and a 5th in the Chrono des Nations, but the old magic was starting to go. Millar was picked for the British team for the London Olympics, but the other countries new what the GB team plan was and they were left to burnt themselves out trying to control the race for Cavendish, Alexander Vinokourov won from a group that split on the final climb of the day.
A good ride in the Ronde van Vlaanderen was an important wish
The cobbles of Paris-Roubaix 2014
2013 and 2014 didn’t bring much in the way of results and when he wasn’t picked for the Garmin 2014 Tour de France team Millar was angry which brought a coldness between him and the team. In an interview at the time he said: “I’m devastated that the team don’t trust me to the job as I’ve always done.” He did ride the Vuelta a España and the World road race in Ponferrada.
David’s last big race as a Pro; the World road race championships in Ponferrada
David Millar’s last race was a hill climb in England on October the 12th, he finished 21st.
At the end of his career he said in many interviews that he felt he didn’t fit in any more and was looking forward to riding a bike without any pressure. As to Millar being Scottish; when I interviewed him he was proud of his Scottish roots and missed having a haggis on Burns night.
In his career he won four stages in the Tour de France, five in the Vuelta a España and one stage of the Giro d’Italia and is the only British rider to have worn all Tour de France jerseys. He was also the first British rider ever to have worn the leader’s jersey in all three Grand Tours. What the future might bring David Millar is anyone’s guess. Spend time with the family, ride his bike, who knows, for sure it won’t be the last we hear of David Millar.
Comments are closed.