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Wednesday, 28 June, 2000, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
David Millar: Britain's new hope
David Millar of Cofidis
David Millar: Relaxed and confident about what awaits
British Tour debutant David Millar tells the BBC he is capable of making his mark on the race.

A new star could be born for British cycling at this Tour, and at the tender age of 23, David Millar is ready and confident for the biggest three weeks of his life.

"I'm going to be up there with the favourites for the first day," he predicts in a matter-of-fact way.

This is not pure bravado but confidence based on his own considerable potential.

Survival is the main objective - there are going to be some awful days
David Millar

His Cofidis team manager Cyril Guimard puts Millar in the same class three-times Tour champion Greg Lemond, who was also discovered by the experienced Frenchman.

And with Chris Boardman not selected for the Tour in his retirement season, all eyes from north of the English Channel will now be on Millar from 1 July

To him falls the baton of British Tour hope once carried by Boardman, Sean Yates, Barry Hoban and Robert Millar - a fellow Scot but no relation.

"Nationality for me is pretty difficult because of the background I have had," says Millar, who was born in Malta but has also lived in Inverness, Berkshire, Hong Kong and now France.
Greg Lemond
Lemond is a hard to act to follow

The nomadic rider views the Tour as "the biggest thing" in his life so far.

"Outside of France and the continental European press it's a big event - the only event in cycling," he points out.

Millar appears delighted at finally receiving some attention back home for his three-and-a-half seasons as a professional.

Like Boardman, the newcomer's specialism is the time trial. The two men both like the event because it is a pure test of skill without the huge element of luck present in pure road racing.

The length of the first stage on this year's Tour should suit the newcomer, as does the return of a special jersey for the best under-25 rider.

"It's really fallen into my lap because they've put this 16km time trial on the first day. That's my dream start," he says.

"They've got the white jersey back for the best young rider, so even if I have a bad day they'll still give me that jersey.
Chris Boardman
Boardman has been ruled out due to recent illness

"It would be great to get on podium on the first day."

After that the target is simple to say, but hard to carry out. But Millar is prepared to dream of Paris and the Champs Elysees, even if he is apprehensive.

"Survival is the main objective. There are going to be some awful days, I know that from my background in the sport," he says.

"I've spoken to guys who've been crying in their hotel rooms because they've been dropped after 5km of a 200km stage and had to finish.

  David Millar
1977: Born in January in Malta
1996: Rode with top Paris amateur club St Quentin
1997 : Turns pro with Cofidis, Prologue winner at Tour de l'Avenir
1998 : Stage winner at Three Days of De Panne, Two stages at Tour de l'Avenir
1999 : Second in Critérium International
2000 : Top ten finishes in three stages of Dauphiné Libéré, lead Route du Sud before finishing ninth

"I'm hoping I won't have too many days like that, and I'd like to get through a big mountain stage well just to show for the future."

Millar is regarded as an independent-minded rider amongst the hordes of young European riders seeking their fortune and a first Ferrari.

While they suffer the weight of expectation, there is little danger of Millar receiving the sort of attention offered to young sporting Brits like Michael Owen or a Jensen Button.

In terms of leading a quiet life, being a Briton in France is a distinct advantage, since only French riders are big news.

"In Italy and Spain it's even bigger. In Italy it's full-on stardom when you're a cyclist - eating in restaurants for free, it's great.

"But it's nice to know there is a difference. I go back to the UK and they say 'Eh, you get paid for that?'

"It keeps your feet on the ground."
David Millar
Ready for the challenge of the Tour

Unlike Boardman, who went to the Olympics before turning professional at a relatively late stage, Millar has learnt his trade at the sharp end in France.

The young man has genuine Tour pedigree, having enjoyed success at the Tour de L'Avenir - an under-21 version of the real thing.

Last year he was an agonising fraction of a second away from victory at the prestigious Criterium International, an event which squashes the main elements of the Tour into one weekend.

And in June this year he led France's prestigious Route du Sud race before a top class field knocked him down to ninth on the final hilly stage.

Now it is time for him to prove the value of his apprenticeship. If he does the average British sports fan might at least know his name, even if there are still no offers of free meals back home.

David Millar
on the Tour, the Olympics and beating sport's drug-users
Editor of Procycling magazine Jeremy Whittle
"Dave's got a very good chance of doing well in the first week"
See also:

28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
30 Jun 00 | Tour de France
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