Cofidis’s David Millar stopped half a meter short of the finish line of the Tour of Spain’s killer 15th stage on Sunday in protest at the conditions on the Vuelta’s most feared and notorious climb.
Millar refused to cross the line after climbing to the top of Angliru. According to Victor Cordero, sport director for the Vuelta a Espana race organization, Millar arrived to the finish line but declined to cross it.
“Millar came to the finish line, took his number off of his back and laid it on the ground one-half meter before the finish line. We don’t know if it’s a protest because he crashed or why, but technically he did not finish the race and is out,” Cordero said.
Cordero said Millar’s actions have left officials no option but to consider him retired from the three-week race, in which he had been hoping to finish among the top ten next Sunday.
Prior to Sunday’s stage, which ended on the summit finish of the 1570-meter Angliru climb, the 25-year-old Cofidis rider had been doing well in ninth position overall.
However after enduring two falls prior to struggling through the rain and fog up the day’s final climb – a road which in former days had been used by shepherds to transport their goats – Millar decided to call it a day.
Given The Angliru’s reputation, Millar’s actions may not be too harshly criticized.
“It’s an inhumane climb,” said Kelme’s Oscar Sevilla, who came second overall last year and lost his overall lead Sunday as Roberto Heras of U.S. Postal tamed the mountain.
However race organizers defended the climb’s inclusion.
“The Vuelta without the Angliru is like a five-kilometer marathon or a fifteen-minute football match,” said race director Enrique Franco.
“On the first year (of the Vuelta), the Angliru stage attracted six million television viewers. And cycling exists through sponsorship,” affirmed Franco.
The Angliru has featured twice before in the race, in 1999 and 2000.