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Who is the real David Millar?
David Millar has been variously painted by the media as a whinging Pom (sorry, I mean Scot), a quitter, and a team troublemaker.
Alternatively, is he just not afraid to question established practices, keen to shake things up in his team (for the better) and a true lover of cycling and its rich history?
Who is the real David Millar? Lucy Power investigates...
2002 was not Millar's best year, career-wise - he was diagnosed with glandular fever (mononucleosis) in January, recovered fully by mid-year to win Stage 13 of the Tour de France, and blasted through the Vuelta a España, rising up the GC ranks until Stage 15, Gijón - Angliru. He was hit by a car on the Angliru climb and made his protest about the race's poor organization in a rare and controversial way by stopping short of the finish line and handing in his number.
Widely criticised by both his team management and other cycling pundits, he adamantly maintains that he made the right decision. He wasn't the only one by any means - 12 riders including Millar abandoned the race that day, several of them with injuries sustained by crashes during the stage. None of them, however, made their statement as pointedly as Millar.
He represented Great Britain at the World Championships in Zolder, scoring 6th in the Individual Time Trial and enlivening the road race by instigating a 50km breakaway. A disappointing result by David's standards, although most riders would love to have standards that high. "Last year was a disaster for me. It didn't help having glandular fever, and I had an up and down rollercoaster of a year, but I learned a lot from it. I'm a different person this year."
2003 looks to be shaping up well - David was fourth overall in his first race of the season, the Vuelta Valenciana. He followed that result with first place in the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen prologue time trial. He's sorted out his grievances with Cofidis, the team he's spent his whole professional career with. He maintains that 'having it out' with his team was the quickest way to open the internal communication channels.
The team 'spat' was widely reported after David mentioned his issues during an interview with L'Equipe. David stated his apparent dissatisfaction with the Cofidis system of paying their riders according to their UCI points total.
"I want to stay here (Cofidis), that's the only reason I did that interview with L'Equipe, an attempt to change, and make it clear the way I thought, I wouldn't have done that if I didn't care."
Cyclingnews: Are there any other teams that appeal?
David Millar: I don't know anything else. Cofidis is my team. It's like I've grown here. The team's grown with me, I've grown with them. Cofidis is all I know, and it's a team I do love, and would like to stay with. That's my goal. I have to say Cofidis is the most professional team in the peloton at the moment, and the boss, François Migraine, has the most passion and the longest view of professional cycling.
Cofidis is no risk of pulling out, or riders not getting paid, it's a guarantee. It's up to me to get the results to give the team faith to back me up the way I want to be backed up.
CN: So what of the talk of you joining US Postal?
DM: I think I could learn an incredible amount from Lance, and enjoy it, but at the same time I've got to decide what I want to do with my career. Would I be taking a step down by doing that? A step down or perhaps a giant leap, it's a big decision for me, and at the end it comes down to Lance as well, so we'll see what happens. I've got a lot of opportunities, it's just finding where and what I want to do with my career.
I have a very good relationship with Lance. We're fairly opposite personalities and have opposite ways of doing things, which is part of the attraction, I get on well with him, we enjoy each other's company for that very reason.
CN: Since Laurent Jalabert has retired, is there anyone to take his place as the peloton's elder statesman, in your mind?
DM:I think we're in a transitional period, definitely in that respect. We'll see what develops this year.
CN: Who stands out for France as an up-and-coming talent?
DM: Sylvain Chavanel (Brioches La Boulangère). He's the big talent coming up. A big talent and a lovely guy as well.
CN: David's respect for fellow professionals like Jalabert extends beyond the present peloton. He has an extensive knowledge of the the history of cycling.
DM: I love reading about all the old champions, all the old stories of the Tour de France, it's one of the reasons I got into cycling.
My favourite stories are about Coppi and Bartali, before and after the second world war. I also know André Darrigade, he lives in Biarritz, I've been out to lunch with him a couple of times and he tells me stories about him and Jacques Anquetil.
CN: That must be cool.
DM: It's incredible. André Darrigade, he's a real
old-school gentleman, always beautifully turned out, just an old gentleman.
CN: British readers have asked why you didn't ride the Commonwealth games?
DM: Because I'm pure Scot, I'm embarrassed about having an English accent. My whole family is Scottish, but I don't want to be another one of these wankers who pretends to be from a country when their grandma's from there or something. I just don't want to turn up there as an expat...
CN: And you're getting into track racing?
DM: I haven't track raced yet! No, just been on the track once. I went to Manchester to try out a bike that British Cycling are developing at the moment, for my benefit, they're going to build me a time trial bike for the Olympics, and they only have it as a track bike at the moment, so I went and tried it out on the track.
David is going to have his first shot at track racing at the Good Friday race meeting at Herne Hill near London in the 10 minute pursuit, squaring off against FDJeux.com's Bradley Wiggins and Brad McGee, as well as Credit Agricole's Stuart O'Grady.
DM: I never really get to race in the UK, in the past this has been a prestigious race. It will be nice to race in front of (UK) people, all the magazines always have photos of me all over them. I live in France, the majority of the year I race in France, it's almost a payback for the British fans, to show my face, and actually remind them that I am British.
CN: Is there anything else you'd like to say to Cyclingnews readers?
DM: I'm not as much of a wanker as I think everybody thinks I am! I actually do love cycling.
It will be interesting to see if this season turns into Millar time again...
Read more about Dave on his website, www.itsmillartime.com