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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 June 2006, 05:55 GMT 06:55 UK
Millar's tale
By Matt Majendie

David Millar
Millar is relishing his second chance at a cycling career
Two years ago, David Millar's life was spiralling out of control.

He admits now he was living too extreme a lifestyle, had become self-obsessed, his doping secret was eating away at him and he "had lost track of everything".

"My life had gone off the rails," said the 29-year-old Scot on the week of his high-profile return to action at Saturday's Tour de France prologue having served his ban for taking the blood booster EPO.

Such was his expertise against the clock at the peak of his powers, Millar is among the favourites to don the leader's yellow jersey in Strasbourg after the 7.1km opener despite having not competed for two years.

And those last 24 months, he admits, have felt like a lifetime.

"I'm 29 years old so I'll get over it," said Millar. "My thoughts are we all have to lose something in our lives and, to my mind, it's better to do that now than in four or five years time."

The something Millar lost was his contract with his team Cofidis, his career, his luxury house in the south of France and his reputation as one of the peloton's "clean" riders.

"I lost it all but I'm not bitter about it at all," he said. "I've served my time but I'm back and I'm determined not to ruin it this time around."

Millar is a new man, according to his friends and family, both on and off the bike.

DAVID MILLAR FACTFILE
David Millar
Born: 4 Jan 1977
Place of birth: Malta
Nationality: Scottish
Team: Saunier Duval-Prodir
Career highs: Three Tour de France stage wins (including yellow jersey in 2000) and two Vuelta a Espana stages
Career low: Banned for two years after admitting using EPO; stripped of 2003 world time-trial title
"In the past, my sister had said 'where's David gone'," he recalled. "And she's right, I'd got so wrapped up in what I was doing I didn't care about anything outside of my circle.

"While the experience of the ban was harsh and the consequences, it's been a better thing for me as a person and a cyclist."

Off the bike, Millar has set up home in the Peak District but plans to move to Spain with his girlfriend, who he started dating some time after his ban.

"She's been a superstar," he said, "and has seen me through a fair bit."

Millar Mk II, who the man himself admits is "100 times nicer than the previous me", already has plans to settle down and start a family in the not-too-distant future.

On the bike, his sole priorities are to repair his reputation and get back to winning ways starting with Saturday's Tour prologue.

In a discipline where less than 10 seconds will probably separate the top 10, Millar knows the margin for error is minute.

"In 2003 - the centenary year of the Tour - I was on course to win the prologue in Paris when my chain slipped and it cost me the yellow jersey," he said.

"I don't want that to happen again and it won't with the equipment I have.

"And the idea of someone else beating me has got me out on the bike on some pretty nasty days in the Peak District.

There are very few guys who can beat me even if they're maxed out on drugs when I'm in top form in a prologue

David Millar
"Some of those days were harsh but I've still loved every minute of it. As Oscar Wilde once said 'there's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes'."

He has done most of his training on his own but has also dragged out Commonwealth Games champion Rob Hayles, "when I can get the lazy bugger out of bed", and mountain biker Nick Craig.

Another large percentage of his training time has been with former British cyclist Max Sciandri in Tuscany.

"I'm now in the shape of my life," he admitted, "both mentally and physically. And, OK, I'll be nervous at the prologue start but that'll be heavily outweighed by excitement."

One rider he doesn't see as a threat is Bradley Wiggins simply saying that "he's not yet proved himself on the road".

Should Millar, however, go on to win he will be doing it clean and, should he lose to a known doper, he already has a plan of action.

"There's nothing I can do if I lose to someone like that," he said. "But I'm going to perhaps be a little bit naive and give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

"And anyway, there are very few guys who can beat me even if they're maxed out on drugs when I'm in top form in a prologue."

Strasbourg waits with bated breath on Saturday.



SEE ALSO
Millar poised for Tour comeback
21 Jun 06 |  Cycling
Millar aiming for Tour success
22 Jun 06 |  Cycling


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