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By Andrew Hood
David Millar wants nothing more than to return to the winner’s circle in 2009.
Last year, Millar was a key ingredient in Garmin-Slipstream’s successful debut on the highest international level, not only helping in the frontlines but also playing an essential backroom role in helping organize and manage the team.
With Garmin-Slipstream on solid footing, the veteran Scot can return to focus on racing and getting results.
The 32-year-old Millar kick-started his 2009 season at Tour Mediterranéen with second in an individual time trial and rode to 10th overall at last week’s Volta ao Algarve, finishing 2:11 behind winner Alberto Contador (Astana).
Those promising results bode well for his major goals of the season at Paris-Nice and Criterium International next month. VeloNews European correspondent Andrew Hood caught up with Millar during the Algarve race last week. Here are excerpts from the quick interview:
VeloNews: Why did you decide to race in Algarve instead of California, where you were second overall last year?
David Millar: We’ve got plenty of good guys in California, I don’t need to be there. I can race here and save myself for Paris-Nice. Last year I was a bit stuffed coming back from California before Paris-Nice, so that’s the goal. Last year, I just came out of Qatar and California too tired, so we pushed it back for me by about one month.
VN: Is there is a big difference from last year, when the team had to prove itself, compared to coming into this season?
DM: We were a startup team and had huge pressure, and I put a bit of that on myself, and I paid for a bit in the end, so this year it’s the polar opposite. This year it’s the complete opposite and I’m down here just enjoying life. The racing is great.
VN: Will you be racing the same program with the Giro-Tour combo?
DM: I’m not doing the Giro again, I learned from that lesson as well. I prefer doing the Vuelta. I will do classics, Romandie and Catalunya for a buildup and let the other guys do the Giro. I am kind on the opposite program as Christian (Vande Velde) this year, which isn’t bad because that means we have two kind of good GC guys and good time trial guys on different parts of the calendar. It’s working it out well. We’re trying to balance things out a bit. Instead, I will do Tour – Vuelta- worlds. That’s what I always used to do and it always seemed to work out well, so we’re going back to that.
VN: Physically, how are you feeling coming into this season?
DM: I feel strong, I feel relaxed. I put a lot of concentration on my training last year, almost too much of that and not enough on the actual racing. I was almost tired when I came to the races, so this year we’ve changed it around a bit. I’m a bit more relaxed about how I do my training and turning it on a lot more at the races, which may sound obvious, but it’s not really sometimes.
VN: How much responsibility did you take last year in helping the team to get established?
DM: This time last year I was just frazzled. There was so much more going on, on all angles. It’s literally night and day compared to last year. I put a lot of weight on my shoulders last year, trying to lead the team and trying to do a bit of everything. This year, I go back to being a bike racer, which is kind of nice.
VN: What are you personal expectations coming into this season?
DM: Last year was a real team thing, this year I am going back to some more personal goals, which plays hand-in-hand with the team, but I can be more focused on myself. And that’s how I think I will get some results anyway.