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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 June 2006, 12:02 GMT 13:02 UK
Millar aiming for Tour success
By BBC Scotland's Gerry Gay

Millar celebrates a Tour time trial win in 2003
Millar celebrates a Tour time trial win in 2003
David Millar is a changed man. At least he says he is. But we'll soon find out when the 2006 Tour de France begins in Strasbourg on 1 July.

Two years ago, Millar admitted taking the performance enhancing substance EPO.

He was stripped of his 2003 World Time Trial title, and suspended from all competition for two years. The ban ends on Friday.

He reckons he's fitter, stronger and more dedicated than the boy from Forres who blasted on to the cycling scene by winning the Tour prologue in 2000.

"I've never done this much training in my life. I'm fitter than I've ever been. Before I used to just train enough to race. I'm hoping this will make me a better cyclist, but we won't know until competition starts."

Tall, lean and articulate, the 29-year-old's quiet confidence was impressive as we chatted about the past and the future, at his training base at the Manchester Velodrome.

He says: "I'm not going to the Tour just to finish. I certainly want to win at least one stage. I have high expectations. I want to be in the world's top three cyclists."

Millar has matured enough to speak honestly about his dark days of cheating, binge drinking and inactivity. He confessed to the French authorities about EPO in the summer of 2004.

Sacked by his team Cofidis and facing a world wide ban, his world caved in.

"Everything I earned disappeared. I hit rock bottom about one year ago. It hurt too much to follow cycling, so I didn't.

"I recognise the stupid mistakes and the regrets with it. The cheating was because of laziness and stupidity. I can perform better without drugs anyway. It was actually my Scottish friends who helped me clean my act up."

When Millar saddles up in Strasbourg in July, he knows there will be dark looks from some. There will be people there who believe 'once a cheat, always a cheat' and that he shouldn't be allowed to race again.

With a shrug he says: "That doesn't bother me. They're not the kind of people I hang out with. I know I have to regain respect from those in the sport. And I don't want cycling to be seen as full of druggies. It's a beautiful sport."

Millar has three stage wins to his name and held the yellow jersey for three days at the start of the 2000 Tour.

A repeat of that form this summer would be fruitful progress in the rehabilitation of this talented Scot.

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