David Millar’s form is finally coming if second place in the time trial at the Route du Sud is anyth
Little over 10 days before a 6.1km Tour de France prologue which will represent one of the focal points of his season, Britain’s David Millar is relishing a a timely return to form at the Route du Sud in France. On stage three of the four-day Tour de France appetiser, a 23.5km time trial between Loures Barousse and Sarp, Millar produced his best performance of the season to finish runner-up, just 23 seconds down on winner Brad McGee. The victory earned the Australian a 24-second cushion over team-mate Sandy Casar with one stage remaining, Tueday’s daunting 150km journey over the Col du Peyresourde, Col d’Aspin, Hourquette d’Ancizan and Col du Val Louron. Although too far down on general classification to challenge for overall honours (now 35th at 31-37 from McGee) Millar was clearly reassured by a fine exhibition of time trialling yesterday: “I’m on the right track. Coming second behind Brad today is an even bigger source of motivation than if I’d won,” said the 27-year-old Cofidis rider. “This time trial was very demanding. You needed plenty of juice and I felt pretty tired after yesterday’s stage,” Millar, a yellow jersey wearer at the 2001 Tour de France, continued. “On the first, straight section, I started cautiously and that’s where I lost time.” The reigning world time trial champion, Millar’s early season has added credence to the so-called curse of the rainbow jersey. After an enforced lay-off as an embattled Cofidis team opted out of all racing this spring, Millar has struggled, finishing in the top 50 only once in six stage-race outings. As a result his UCI ranking has plummeted from 20th at the start of 2004 to 55th as he entered the Route du Sud. A persistent and only slowly-improving skin condition – hyper-reactive dermatitis – has a exacerbated a general lack of form and fitness. Judging by yesterday’s near-miss behind McGee, Millar should now prove one of the Aussie’s most obdurate rivals at the Tour prologue in Lige. The two old sparing partners and friends will not, however, be going head-to-head in the Olympic time trial in Athens on August 18: while gold in Greece remains Millar’s number one objective for the 2004 season, McGee will target another discipline – the individual track pursuit.