Number 4: David Millar
Last year’s position: 15
This has been, arguably, the finest season of David Millar’s career.
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He turned 33 in January and is relishing his position as one of his team’s wisest voices. He has experienced, the good, the bad and the very ugly in his time. His mistakes are well documented, his rehabilitation genuine. A sense of real enjoyment – even when he is suffering – is something that the younger Millar did not have. But he has now. Perhaps he realises he is in the autumn of his career and wants to make the most of it.
Just as his temperament has evened out over the years, so has his level of consistency. Millar is one of the few Men for All Seasons in modern-day cycling. He kicked off his season in February and carried on until October. He started all three grand tours, sampled the Classics and ended the season with two of the finest performances of his career.
Reel off the results and it is a good season by any standards. A very respectable 12th place overall at Paris-Nice was followed by a time trial win at Porto-Vecchio that sealed fifth place overall at Criterium International.
A week later, he rode with verve and panache and no little grit to win the Three Days of De Panne. The time trial victory was probably not a surprise but the way he got stuck in on the cobbles and dug deep on the longest of the three road stages to keep his overall chances alive were to his great credit.
A superb third place in the Tour de France prologue kicked off a race that became a personal battle to survive. Ill and injured, he was off the back on his own in the mountains and had to fight just to regain contact with the last group. But as he said, you don’t just quit the Tour, especially when you can’t be sure how many you have left in you.
At the end of the season, he reaped the rewards for finishing the Tour and the Vuelta. He was second in the World Championship time trial after producing what was without doubt the finest ride of his post-ban career. And that puts it up there with the greatest results of his entire career. Okay, so it was a silver medal, but in an event dominated by Fabian Cancellara it must have felt like it was brushed with gold.
The Commonwealth Games were another indication that the nomadic Millar has settled down. In the past he has had a loose relationship with the idea of nationality. He’s never given the impression of belonging anywhere. He even rode for Malta in the Small Nations Games and spent one year on the Tour with Basque Country flags stuck on his race numbers.
So when he pulled on the blue jersey of Scotland, he did so with pride. His performance in the road race was one of sheer guts. Outnumbered by the Aussies, he did not hold back and was one of the driving forces behind blowing the race to bits. He played his cards sensibly towards the end and finished with a bronze medal. He upgraded that to gold with a convincing win in the time trial.
Stage win, Criterium International
5th overall, Criterium International
Stage win, Three Days of De Panne
1st overall, Three Days of De Panne
2nd, stgae three, Criterium du Dauphiné
3rd, prologue, Tour de France
Silver medal, World Time Trial Championships (Geelong)
Bronze medal, Commonwealth Games road race (Delhi)
Gold medal, Commonwealth Games time trial (Delhi)
1st Chrono des Nations
Cycling Weekly’s Top British Riders of 2010 advent calendar: We will reveal one rider per day behind the virtual doors of our sparkly advent calendar from Wednesday December 1 to Christmas Eve, Friday December 24. The top eight will then be revealed in Cycling Weekly magazine’s final issue of the year, which will be in the shops on December 30 2010.