So near yet so far: on Wednesday in the Eneco Tour, Britain?s David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir) came within a whisker of securing Britain?s first ever overall victory in a ProTour race, but finally had to settle for second behind Spain?s Jose Ivan Gutierrez.
In the final time trial stage at Sittard-Geelen in the Netherlands, held over rolling terrain and on roads which varied from narrow country lanes to broad boulevards, Millar’s times closely shadowed Gutierrez’s in the opening half of the course.
The Scot was just three seconds behind the Spanish national time trial champion at the mid-way checkpoint. But whilst Gutierrez maintained his pace to the finish and overnight leader Thomas Dekker (Rabobank) cracked badly, Millar faded – only slightly, but enough to lose him the race.
Come the finale, Gutierrez?s overall lead on the Scot had stretched from two seconds to 11. The Caisse D?Epargne rider could not take the stage win – that honour went to Belgium?s Sebastian Rosseler, two seconds faster – but his consistency did earn Gutierrez the overall victory. Third both on the stage and final overall was Sweden?s Gustav Larsen (Unibet.com).
?It?s my second stage win of the year,? Gutierrez pointed out. ?I?ve already won the Tour of the Med. and now my final objective of the year will be the World Championships in Stuttgart.?
?It was a very close-run thing, Millar and Dekker were strong throughout the whole race, and I could only be sure I?d won when the whole field had finished. So I?ve very happy – and very relieved!?
For Millar, second in the Eneco Tour represents a personal and British best in a week-long ProTour event, and also augers well for Stuttgart.
Victorious in stage two and second on stage five, T-Mobile?s Mark Cavendish also made it onto the final podium of the race, as winner of the points competition overall – despite suffering from severe toothache all week.
ENECO Tour 2007: Stage seven: Sittard – Geleen 29.6km
1 Sebastien Rosseler (Bel) Quickstep 36-50
2 José Ivan Gutierrez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 2sec
3 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Unibet.com at 6sec
4 David Millar (GBr) Saunier Duval – Prodir at 11sec
5 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas at 20sec
6 Raivis Belohvosciks (Lat) Saunier Duval – Prodir at 29sec
7 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Discovery at 32sec
8 Leif Hoste (Bel) Predictor – Lotto at 51sec
9 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner at 52sec
10 Kim Kirchen (Lux) T-Mobile Team at 55sec
16 Steve Cummings (Discovery) at 1-05
64 Mark Cavendish (T-Mobile) at 2-43
80 Roger Hammond (T-Mobile) at 3-10
1 José Ivan Gutierrez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 26-05-44
2 David Millar (GBr) Saunier Duval – Prodir at 11sec
3 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Unibet.com at 1-05
4 Leif Hoste (Bel) Predictor – Lotto at 1-12
5 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank at 1-15
6 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Discovery Channel at 1-17
7 Bram Tankink (Ned) Quickstep at 1-32
8 Sébastien Rosseler (Bel) Quickstep at 1-33
9 Paul Martens (Ger) Skil – Shimano at 1-34
10 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Predictor – Lotto at st
61 Roger Hammond (T-Mobile) at 14-32
69 Steve Cummings (Discovery) at 15-36
87 Mark Cavendish (T-Mobile) at 18-43
Dekker leads Eneco but Millar poised to challenge
Pagliarini wins Eneco’s fourth successive bunch sprint
Weylandt wins tough bunch sprint in Eneco
Cavendish moves into Points lead in Eneco
Cavendish wins stage two of Eneco Tour
Nuyens wins stage and keeps Eneco lead for Cofidis
Brits out in force at Eneco Tour