By Andrew Hood
Ever since he burst on the scene with a surprise win in the prologue of the 2000 Tour de France, many have believed that David Millar could be cycling’s next superstar. There’s no doubting the Cofidis rider has the charisma and the look of the next big thing. On top of edging Lance Armstrong in the Tour prologue, he won a Tour road stage last year and consistently challenges in week-long stage-races. Despite his reputation as party animal, Millar says he’s more serious than ever and insists he’s on a trajectory that will take him even higher in 2003. VeloNews European correspondent Andrew Hood caught up with Millar at last week’s Tour of Valencia, where he took fourth overall, and talked about plans for the upcoming season, that day on the Angliru and Lance Armstrong.
VeloNews: How are you feeling and how is your form compared to last year?
David Millar: It hasn’t been this good in a long while. I started late, around December, like I always do, but I want to go the whole season long. I’ve been training hard and I’m feeling good now. Last year, if you remember, I was sick for the first part of the season, so this year is already much better.
VN: Where did you train during the winter?
DM: I stayed in Biarritz (where he lives in France – ed.). We had the team training camp in the Cot d’Azur, but it was shit weather. Apocalyptic at times, but we got through it okay. Maybe it will toughen me up a little bit.
VN: What are your top goals this year?
I’d like to get another stage win at the Tour de France this year. But I’m thinking that races like Dauphine, Tirreno-Adriatico, races like that suit me better right now. I’d like to try to win one of those and maybe some stages in the grand tours and then really build for the world championships. I’m looking at going the whole year.
VN: Are you looking at the Tour for a stage-win or focusing more on the GC?
DM: Just stage-wins right now. If I’m starting now and trying to go all the way through the season, it’s not worth it to kill myself to finish in the top-10 in the GC and not win a stage. No one cares. I just want to go to the Tour, try to win a stage and enjoy it. If I come out of it with a good GC result, okay, but then I want to get ready for the world championships.
VN: Are you just focusing on the world time trial title or the road race as well?
DM: I like both. I’m feeling more confident in road racing every year and the course is a good one, but the time trial remains the number-one objective right now.
VN: You haven’t won a time trial since 2001 – is that a worry for you?
DM: I know, it’s been a long time, but no, it’s not a problem. Those things just happen. I’ve been close a few times. I think it will happen pretty soon. My form is coming around pretty good. It will happen soon.
VN: What was your best moment in 2002?
DM: The Tour stage-win was incredible. I was just explosive that day. At the Vuelta, I was strong at Alcobendas and right with the leaders, I was really happy with that. There were a lot of things. My Tour win stands out, because I could do no wrong that day.
VN: Your worst moment – the Angliru?
DM: That was a horrible day, it was horrific. It was so dangerous. I got run over by car — pissed me off.
VN: Do you think the organizers responded at all to your protest?
DM: I’d like to think they did, not just me but others, too. I have no problem with the climb itself. We can have climbs like that no problem; I just wish it was better organized. I have scar tissue on both sides of my legs from the crash because it took us five-and-a-half hours to get back to the team hotel. We got stuck two hours at the top of the mountain. It was just scandalous.
They treat us like animals. And the fans, too. They had everyone behind these three-meter-high barriers. Come on. Everyone was treated like animals, even the fans. This is not what it’s all about.
VN: Was there any follow-up after your protest, from you, other riders, the team?
DM: No, not really. Cycling is like that — every man for himself. I felt like I had just to make my stand.
VN: Do you think you can win the Tour de France some day?
DM: I don’t even talk about that. It’s a very dangerous area.
VN: Armstrong is the favorite for you – do you think he can win five and six?
DM: Five, he’ll get, but six is pretty difficult. There’s always something physically or psychologically that seems to happen. That’s how it usually works. We’ll wait to see. I think he’d be a big man if he walked away at five, quit on top. I think it would almost disrespectful if he took the sixth.
Merckx, Anquetil, all those guys could have gotten six if they had really wanted it. Merckx won what, 11 grand tours? And if Lance wins six Tours, that will make him the best Tour de France rider, which isn’t necessarily the truth. You got to look at in the big picture.
VN: You think that the criticism of Armstrong is valid that he doesn’t go the Giro or the world’s?
DM: Lance is a professional cyclist. He’s professional – key word.
VN: Some critics have said that you need to become more serious if you want to win the Tour, what’s your response to that?
DM: Yeah, that’s not a big secret, is it? Yeah, but I’ve got it under control. I’m getting better. I’ve been waiting. I’m still just 26, so I’ve just been starting to get serious now. I figure I want to peak out at 28. That gives me about five years on the top. That’s still a long time to be on the top. I’m getting better. I’m getting better prepared psychologically as well as physically.
You see a lot of these guys that get big at 22-23, they never get any better. You start training 100-percent and then you start losing your plot, you never get any better. I’d rather just step-up, step-up, step-up – it’s an ongoing process.
VN: So this year for you is an important one to improve?
DM: Yes, I want to move up the world rankings and prove my worth as a professional cyclist, as an all-rounder and do anything.
VN: Your deal with Cofidis is up this year. How did your comments in L’Equipe go down with the team?
DM: It’s helped the team a bit; we’re racing a bit better. It was getting a bit desperate. We were racing all over the place and now we’ve been going really well. It’s worked all of us up.
It needed to be said. I could have gone through the team. The team was upset I didn’t talk to them first, but I just said, if I take it through the team, it will takes months to sort it all out. At least this way, it’s like a shock treatment and we got it sorted straight away. We don’t have time for dissing around.
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