Talking to a group of journalists on Friday afternoon at the Great Britain team hotel in Lugano, Britain’s David Millar was optimistic and upbeat about his chances of a good performance – both individually and collectively – in Sunday’s world championship road-race.
That sense of optimism started to grow inside Millar during the Vuelta a Espana, with victory in the race’s final time trial confirming that he was on the right track.
“My condition and morale is good,” Millar said. “I’ve based my last month and a half building up for this so the fact I’ve got that stage win in the Tour of Spain is reassuring.”
“I laid low through the whole of the Vuelta, had deliberately avoided getting into breaks, and getting that time trial victory has given me the confidence to relax and wait for Sunday.”
The Vuelta win was part of a purple patch for Garmin-Slipstream, with the team notching up four or five victories in a row in the space of a few days. As Millar points out, their three stages in the Tour of Spain were taken in three completely different kinds of terrain, with a Grand Tour victory going to Tyler Farrar, then another coming in the mountains with Ryder Hesjedal, and finally in the last time trial of the race with the Scot himself.
As for the World’s with Millar as leader of the nine-man team, the 32-year-old admits that it’s given him a lot more responsibility.
“In the past it was if you go well, then great, and if you don’t then bad luck and you stopped. And whilst it was Brad [Wiggins] and Mark [Cavendish] who got us the [UCI] points that meant we could get to this point, a lot of thanks has to go to Rod Ellingworth too for bringing us this kind of strong team ethos.”
“He’s put a plan in place in the last year and now we feel we’ve got a duty to perform rather than just get a free tracksuit.”
Bringing together a group of riders who are in rival teams during the year and making them work for a common goal is no easy task, and Millar says that for the older GB riders it’s trickier than for the younger ones, who’ve been through the talent program.
“For the younger guys it’s different, they’ve been racing together since they were young and they’ve got that kind of culture, coming though those programs and they’re all good friends.”
“Us older pros have to put more effort into it, but we’ve got a nice mix between the older guys and the younger ones. It’s great for us because we’ve never had it before so it’s a lot of fun to be part of something.”
As for the race itself, Millar thinks a satisfactory result would be top 20, but he doesn’t rule out a top ten placing either.
“The race itself being so hard in the last few years has meant it’s all been a bit shut down, so it’ll be interesting to see whether there will be different tactics and people will go earlier this year.”
“My tactic will be to wait because I’ve not got many options, we’ve only got me as the guy for the finale. So essentially I’ll be the sole leader, although if Steve [Cummings] feels good and is up for going in a move with five or six laps to go then that’s what he’ll do.”
“We’ll basically see who’s going good on the day, although we’ll discuss specific roles tonight [Friday].”
“One of the things about the World Championships is that you’ve got to relax. A lot of people say you’ve got to be at the front of the whole time, that’s not my style of doing the World’s.”
“Watch guys who do well and they never stay at the front until you need to be, you race in a fairly autonomous manner.”
“You can do quite well on your own, but it’s going to be a huge benefit to my morale having the guys around.”
“It is quite a technical circuit, but after you’ve done a few laps you kind of get into the groove of racing it, so the peloton gets a rhythm of its own. It’s a fairly organic race.”
“You know what’s going to happen in the first three quarters of the race. A break goes, it’s a war of attrition and then when the moves start to go with four or five laps to go three quarters of the field are already eliminated.”
“You have to be careful not to overcomplicate it because tactically it’s probably the most simple race on the calendar.”
It’s also one of the most exhausting and Millar admits that normally most top riders will only have one real chance to get it right.
“That’s what made [double World Champ Paolo] Bettini so good, because he could go three or four times. But after 230 kilometres, the majority of leaders can only have one go.”
Millar clearly doesn’t want to raise expectations too high. But should that be Millar’s case on Sunday – that he only has one chance – then he has every intention of making it truly count.
Road World Championships 2009: Related links
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Men’s time trial start list
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Ellingworth explains Cavendish withdrawal from Worlds
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Manning praises Dowsett after Worlds TT ride
It’s Cavendish or Stannard for final worlds place
Great Britain names world championships team
Millar won’t ride worlds time trial despite Vuelta win
Wiggins quits Tour of Britain to focus on worlds TT
Out of sorts Cooke abandons Tour de l’Ardeche
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Millar set to lead GB road race team at the Worlds
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Cancellara blasts to third Worlds time trial title
Men’s time trial as it happened
Armstrong repeats 2006 world champs win for USA
Under-23 Men Time Trial
Women’s and under-23 men’s time trials as they happened