David Millar did not enter the National Championships on their original date, because he was busy preparing for the Tour de France prologue, which was to take place in London the following weekend.
But after the road races were called off in the wake of flash flooding in East Yorkshire, they were rescheduled, with the men?s event taking place as part of the Robert Price Grand Prix of Wales in Abergavenny.
Millar, strong from the Tour but fresh after a mini break, was in superb form and very few could match him.
There was a stellar battle between the Saunier Duval rider and Dan Lloyd but in the end, Millar made no mistakes. He?d always wanted to be national champion and still harboured memories of a painful defeat in Solihull in 2000 when he was arguably the strongest on the day but found the course offered too little resistance to give him the chance to get away. He got a bronze medal in the sprint behind John Tanner and Jon Clay. A week later, he won the yellow jersey in the Tour, which made up for ths disappointment.
After just under a year in the white jersey, Millar wants to keep it. He is also the national time trial champion and has relished standing out from his Slipstream team-mates ? not that he has anything against argyle, it?s just Millar being Millar, he relishes the thought of it being non-uniform day every day.
Cyclingweekly.co.uk caught up with him.
CW: What do you recall of last year?s race?
DM: I was actually quite nervous beforehand, something that happens to me very rarely these days. I had travelled over with the sole intention of winning but once there I remembered that I had no idea how to race a British race or who I was racing against.
I was expecting the course to be harder than it was, so I was surprised and disappointed the first lap when I realised it was going to be much easier than I anticipated. An easier course was going to make the race much harder for me.
It became obvious quickly that I was going to be racing against 100 guys all by myself, so I committed myself and didn’t let it stress me out, even if it did mean breaking all my racing rules ? such as chasing alone on the front of the bunch, bridging a two-minute gap in the first quarter of the race and making my big attack before the half way mark.
The whole day was a new experience for me, a style of racing I have never experienced. I had to adapt to British racing and not rely on my usual tactics or expectations.
It wasn’t easy for me and I genuinely considered stopping at least three times simply because I felt I was over-stretching myself, I perhaps under-estimated myself though because although I felt crap most of the day I didn?t get any crapper as the day went on.
I was very fortunate to have Daniel Lloyd with me, he was very impressive and he was the only person in the race who was a real threat.
Towards the end he was able to match me pedal stroke for pedal stroke, I was genuinely respectful of him and did not give him any room for movement. He?d have been a dangerous adversary on a hillier course.
I did not believe I was going to win until I put my hands up, although I had started the race with the sole intention of winning there was a part of me that considered it an impossibility and I had not even dare dream of actually winning the jersey ? hence the ecstatic victory salute. There was real emotion there, the moment I crossed the line I accepted how much it really meant to me. I am very proud to be the British national champion, it means an awful lot to me and allows me to remind people of where I?m from and who I represent. It also makes my Olympic ban a little more endurable knowing that I can represent Great Britain in other ways.
CW: What do you think of this year?s championship? What do you know of the course?
DM: I don?t know very much about it apart from the information I?ve received from the organisation. From what I can tell it is harder than last year, with close to 3,000 metres of climbing. That?s quite a lot and will make the race a little easier for me to control. I?m nervous about defending it again, which is a good sign, and I think I have a grasp of British racing. This is something I hadn?t understood before last year although this does not mean I expect it to be any easier for me, in fact I expect it to be one of the hardest days racing of the year for me. I will be out there to win, and the jersey is going to have to be wrestled off my shoulders.
CW: Who are going to be the biggest threats and, if you don?t win again, who do you think will take the jersey?
DM: I really don?t know, I?d like to see Rob Hayles win, he?d be a good national road champ and judging by his current form and savvy in British racing I would definitely tip him. Mark Cavendish is getting stronger and stronger, he?s a little phenomenon. I wouldn?t want to be in a situation where I have to drop him in the final, anything less than a proper hill would prove insufficient.
Geraint [Thomas] is a great bike racer, he has the temperament to rip the race to pieces, is he starting? [Fortunately for the other starters, he?s not ? CW]
Ben Swift is a weapon, young and far from developed, but still somebody I have to respect even at this early stage in his career.
Jonny Bellis is another as are a few of those Academy boys, Rod Ellingworth has developed a bunch of serious bike riders there and as a united force they will be interesting to race against.
Daniel Lloyd will be a key player if he is riding at the same level as last year. Roger [Hammond] and Jez [Hunt], of course. Then there are the home-based guys, I?m racing on their terrain in their race, there are a few who could upset proceedings… It?s a nightmare of a race, everybody has a chance of winning.
Millar?s Champagne moment on the podium last year
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