What's Cool In Road Cycling

David Millar: Gets PEZ’d!

He admitted to doping and was booted for 2 years. His return was tentative, but his natural talent never in doubt. David Millar’s career has been up, very down, and after a humbling return at Le Tour he stepped up to a Vuelta TT win. He’s poised for something big in ’07 – and talked in depth with PEZ at the Saunier Duval-Prodir camp in Spain.

I last saw David Millar at the 2006 Worlds in Salzburg, before that it was at the Tour de France in Strasbourg. At the Tour he was cagey, not surprisingly – some of the Press have over-done the “hang-em-high” routine. The man sinned but served his time and deserves another chance. At the Worlds he said “hello” to me when he passed as I was interviewing his agent, Max Sciandri. Hey! I thought, maybe all that politeness is paying-off and I’ll get some decent time with the man.

Let’s have a nice smile now for everyone on PEZ… beautiful!.

I was right, when I chatted to him at the cafe stop on the Saunier squad run on Wednesday he was affable and promised me an interview the next day – here it is:

Pez: How’s things on the motor car front, still running that wild Subaru rally job? David: No, I crashed it! I’m actually car-less at the moment, I live in the centre of Girona so it’s not a problem. I love motor sport but I’ve not had the time recently.

Pez: Whilst talking hardware, will we see another tt “special” at the Tour?
DM: I was talking to Scott this morning, they have three tt frames here for me and another three up in Switzerland, we’ll be discussing getting one sprayed-up and doing something special for the Tour prologue. Scott are good, they appreciate that I’m into bikes and take on-board with a lot of what I say.

Dave says the new Scott Addict is “pure race bike”.

Pez: What’s your take on the new road bike?
DM: The Addict is more aggressive than the CR1. The CR1 was a great bike but maybe too comfortable, the Addict is a pure race bike and it’s very light. I like the SRAM equipment, I was a bit apprehensive about it because I’ve ridden Campag Record my whole life and it works well, but the SRAM is excellent and the ergonomics are great. I think that the lever hoods have to be the most comfortable on the market now. I’m looking forward to racing on the bike to see how it performs under stress.

Pez: Cofidis to Saunier – tell us about the differences.
DM: This is a nicer team, more familial and with more of a soul; it’s a good set-up and I’m happy. At Cofidis, despite the huge budget, people were always whingeing, they simply didn’t know when they were well-off, I guess. The Spanish are much more laid-back. It shows when you are out training, the riders here have more respect for each other, they don’t smash each other except when it’s time to go hard in the hills. At Cofidis there was always half-wheeling going-on.

Pez: Tell us about 2006.
DM: It was all so full-on it was hard to grasp, winning that Vuelta time trial was exceptional but I was exhausted by the end of the year.

Pez: Was winning that tt the high point of 2006?
DM: No, it was actually just rolling-down the ramp in the Tour prologue at Strasbourg and being back.

Pez: And the low point?
DM: That was the last day of the Tour, in Paris when I realized I’d been chasing my tail for three weeks. The two years away meant I wasn’t competitive, I wasn’t in the race and I remembered how ambitious I am and how much I want to win races.

Pez: Wasn’t the puncture in the Worlds tt at Salzburg a sore one?
DM: Not really, if it’s your day, you’ll win, puncture or no puncture. I just wasn’t “on” that day, I was shattered after the last week of the Vuelta. That’s why I finished the Vuelta, it means a lot to a Spanish team your getting to Madrid, and it was my first year with the team. If I had been more confident about the Worlds I would have quit the Vuelta to rest for the tt; but there would have been no point in quitting then coming fifth in the test. I was very happy with the ride I did in the Worlds road race though, I think I can get a medal in that one day.

The ‘new’ Dave loads up with water for his teammates at the ’06 Vuelta.

Pez: What does 2007 hold?
DM: I start with Majorca in February but I have three specific periods when I want to be at my best. The first is for Paris-Nice and Milan-San Remo. The second is for the Tour – I would love to win that prologue. After the Tour it’s time for a rest then I come back for the Vuelta and the Worlds, I would like to try and get two medals there – tt and road.

Pez: On the subject of the prologue, what makes a specialist?
DM: You have to be big and powerful, able to handle a bike well and go damn fast. I think only McGee, Zabriskie and I are what you could call the specialists. The other guys who win them, like Hincapie and Hushovd are just big strong, riders on their best form. McGee and I are the ones who seem to be able to come up with the goods even if we’re not at our absolute best. The other aspect is that you have to be able to cope with the mental pressure. There’s so much weight of expectation on you that it’s easy to over-cook it , go off too fast and have nothing left for the last 500 metres; it’s vital you finish strongly.

Millar is more relaxed and confident as he begins his second year with Saunier Duval-Prodir.

Pez: Tell us about the build-up.
DM: My last big block of work on the lead-up to the Tour will be the Dauphine, that ends three weeks before the Tour. I plan to do some track work to sharpen-up my speed… when I went back to the road after I won the British pursuit championship last year, I was just so quick. I’ll try and balance track and road training for two weeks and the weekend before the Tour I think I’ll ride the British road race champs then it’s a taper-off into the prologue.

Pez: What about long-term goals, David.
DM: I want to be one of the best five or six riders in the world, when it’s time to retire I want to be able to feel that I got the most out of myself. I’m stronger now than I was before, physically and mentally. That absence was like a wake-up call to me that I have the good fortune to have talent at riding a bike and I shouldn’t squander it. I was too soft before, now I know I can do the training that you need to do to be competitive in the classics. At Cofidis I was under-achieving, there’s no doubt about that, maybe if Guimard had stayed it would have been different, it’s hard to say.

Pez: You mentioned the track there, maybe a six-day career one day?
DM: Definitely not! I just took advantage of living near Manchester to go down and ride the champs. I have a race mentality, I thought; ‘well, if I’m going to ride a pursuit, it’s as well to be the championship!’ I did no preparation, so I was pleased to win.

Pez: Max Sciandri is your agent now, isn’t he?
DM: Max has been great, he’s taken me under his wing and helped build my self-belief back. He’s more like a big brother to me and of course he’s a legend as a rider.

Lunch beckoned, so the final point I put to David was one that Magnus Backstedt made; the “old” David would never have done all that work for Francisco Ventoso in the Vuelta, would he? David replied: ‘at Cofidis there was no one worth helping!’ It seemed like a good place to close.

Thank you, David and have a great 2007.

SaunierDuvalTeam.com website.
SCOTTUSA website.

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