A relieved and elated David Millar said that he intends to defend the polka-dot jersey as a precious souvenir of the Tour's minibreak in England.
Relieved because Millar said that he woke in a "dark mood" ahead of Stage 1 after his thirteenth place in the prologue.Elated because his a superior prologue result to Cofidis rider Stéphane Augé edged him clear of the Frenchman after both men scored equal points in the mountain grand prix.
Millar also picked up twelve seconds after winning two of the day's three intermediate sprints. As a result, "Le Dandy" moved up to third on general classification, 21 seconds down on leader Fabian Cancellara. Millar admitted that it was more than he could have hoped for when he embarked on his 145km breakaway on the road out of London.
"I wanted to do something this morning," he told journalists in Canterbury. "I can remember coming to tour in 1994. I was up against the barriers in Brighton, waiting for four hours. Two riders were off the front then ten minutes later Chris Boardman attacked just for the sake of it. So I thought this morning, you know what, I'm just going to go on a suicide mission. It ended up being productive which was a real bonus."
"I wanted to say thank you to everyone here," he continued. "It was the one opportunity in my lifetime to do that. ...The reception was amazing. There were flags and banners painted with my name. It's nice to hear 'David' being shouted in an English accent and not 'Davide, Davide'. It was great, wonderful and I'd just like to thank everyone for coming out and supporting us."
Millar now believes that he can keep the polka-dot jersey for most if not all of the first week. He said tonight that he hoped the challenge might motivate him when the big climbs do start, but admitted that he had "no illusions" about his chances of retaining his King of the Mountains status through the Alps.
The Scot said that he was confident of winning a stage before the race ends in Paris on July 29.
Of his subdued performance in the prologue, Millar admitted that he was overawed by the London setting. "I just underestimated how overwhelmed I was. Even this morning, with all the people, it was starting to stress me out, and I was only happy when I was on the bike in the race. I just couldn't handle it, all that other stuff. I don't know how the Beckhams and people like that can do it...You want to stop and say hello to everyone, and I don't know how to do that.
"Today was just one of those days when I was tactically at my best," he continued. "I chose the time to attack this morning perfectly and the whole day, I was completely on the ball. The whole day was planned out - when I initially went away, I waited for the first wave of attacks to calm down, then went again. Even when I dropped off the break I knew that I was guaranteed to get the jersey."
So the jersey heads to the continent with one very proud owner. And for the record, as fashion statements go, polka-dots look better on Millar than a sarong ever did on David Beckham.