Britain’s David Millar said he is primed to give his all over the coming days of climbing in the French Alps to wrest control of the Criterium du Dauphine lead.
Millar finished a commendable second place in the third-stage time trial of this key Tour de France warm-up event on Wednesday, missing victory by 26sec after a risky ride on a technically challenging 49km course.
Slovenia’s Janez Brajkovic claimed a deserved win for his RadioShack team and took over the race lead from two-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador of Astana, who was sixth at 1min 46sec.
Contador has claimed that overall victory in the race is not his objective this week, and that could pave the way for Millar to add yet another feather to his cap in what has been a successful season so far.
And although Brajkovic said he will call upon his team-mates in the coming days in the French Alps, Millar said his tank is far from empty.
“I was flying at the end (of the time trial) which is a good sign for tomorrow. I didn’t empty myself completely,” he told AFP after finishing second.
“I’m going to give it everything tomorrow. If I can’t climb then it’s because I’m not a climber. But I’m fit, so I’ve got no excuses.”
With the Tour de France start in Rotterdam (July 3) a little over three weeks away, the remaining stages of the Dauphine – and in particular stage six on Saturday to the summit of Alpe d’Huez – will give RadioShack plenty of opportunity to see who’s hot and who’s not.
The American team fronted by Lance Armstrong, who is not racing here, lost experienced Spanish climber Haimar Zubeldia to a wrist injury after a crash on stage one. But despite his absence, which ironically could give Brajkovic a Tour de France place if the Spaniard fails to recover in time, his Slovenian team-mate is determined to defend his lead.
“It’s going to be hard but we have a good team here,” said Brajkovic, who has returned to form in recent years, having initially shown his potential by winning the world under-23 time trial crown in 2004.
“We lost Haimar and that was a big loss for us and means the race could be harder for us to control. But we’ll see if we, and I, can do it. I’ve had a solid season so far and finished in the top ten in all my races, except for Paris-Nice where I finished 11th.”
Brajkovic meanwhile played down suggestions that his team regarded Contador, who spent a tense three weeks racing with Armstrong in the Astana team at last year’s Tour de France, as the enemy.
“Contador is not an enemy (of RadioShack), he’s just another rider who happens to be the best rider in the world,” he added.
Contador’s main objective of the Tour de France means this week’s race, on paper, is wide open. And Brajkovic intends to benefit.
“Contador is not interested in winning the Dauphine, his aim is to be in top form for the Tour. He’s simply doing what he has to do to be in top form for next month. That means one of us other guys can nip in and take some of the glory.”
Thursday’s fourth stage is a steadily rising 210.5km ride from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to the summit of Risoul.
© AFP 2010