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Too old the verdict for Millar's time trial defence

THERE was to be no Glaswegian time trial glory for David Millar, only the confirmation of time catching up on his 37-year-old legs.

David Millar was cheered on by the home crowd but could only finish eighth. Picture: Jamie Simpson
David Millar was cheered on by the home crowd but could only finish eighth. Picture: Jamie Simpson

However, the surrender of his Commonwealth title allowed another interesting tale to emerge - that of a man still seething about his exclusion from this year's Tour de France, and who was once found in a compromising situation with a syringe in his hand.

An untimely illness earlier this summer caused Alex Dowsett to miss out on Tour selection with his Pro team Movistar, depriving him of the chance to participate in a stage which ran through his home town of Chelmsford. However, that is only one aspect of his fascinating story. The 25-year-old, formerly of Team Sky, suffers from haemophilia, a blood clotting abnormality which can make the slightest cut fatal. Consequently, he has dispensation from the UCI to inject himself with his special medication, prophylaxis, before racing each morning, even if on one occasion he had a bit of explaining to do when a Norwegian team-mate was rather surprised to catch him doing so at the team hotel.

Dowsett - the silver medallist in Delhi, and a man who took out Sir Bradley Wiggins in a time trial stage of the Giro d'Italia last year - was a hugely impressive winner. It was instructive to note, though, that 14 years have passed since Millar rocketed to prominence when claiming the yellow jersey with victory in a prologue time trial at Futuroscope, near Poitiers. In the nicest possible sense, it showed. Born in Malta, and now resident in Girona, near Barcelona, Millar was afforded the honour of going out last as defending champion and welcomed like a homecoming hero by a crowd which was five-deep at the Trongate, but he was never a factor in the drama unfolding at the front.

By the first split, after just 6.4km, he was already eight seconds down on the irrepressible Dowsett; by the second, after 17.12km, that margin had swollen to 50 seconds. At one stage, Dowsett was no better than third on the road, behind both Australia's Rohan Dennis and Geraint Thomas of Wales, but as the Englishman turned his fury over the lost Tour placed into pedal speed, he reasserted his authority in that 1-2-3 to complete the 40km circuit in 47.41.78, leaving Millar nowhere to be seen. While Dennis - nine seconds back - took silver, and Thomas bronze, the Scot could only manage eighth, approximately two-and-a-quarter minutes off the pace.

He had always felt Sunday's road race was a more likely outlet for his current skill set, but Millar denied he had been keeping anything in reserve on a route which also took in stretches of the East Dunbartonshire and North Lanarkshire countryside. Having been a shock omission from Garmin-Sharp's Tour de France squad, and with the end of his cycling career beckoning after the Vuelta a Espana, he certainly had no shortage of motivation. Scotland, after all, was where he found most solace "when the s**t went down," a reference to events in Biarritz in 2004 when he spent 47 hours in police custody and eventually admitted to doping.

The first time Millar had climbed on his time trial bike for the Games had been two days prior to yesterday's race, and the first time he had any idea of how poorly his race was panning out was when even the TV motorbike decided to abandon him.

"I had low expectations and I fulfilled those," said Millar. "It was just age - it catches up with us all. I hadn't a clue what was going on out there. It was only when the TV bike buggered off that I realised.

"I know where my fortes now lie and it's not so much in time trialling nowadays so the road race on Sunday should be my thing.

"But the atmosphere was incredible. It was like a Tour de France stage out there. The amount of people waving Scottish flags and cheering my name - I've never experienced anything like it and hopefully it will be more of the same on Sunday. That was nice but I can't really say I enjoyed it - you can't enjoy anything in the time trial, it's a horrible place. I wanted to keep my emotions in check for this event but come Sunday it's a case of unleashing the lot. If I don't do it then someone else will."

Dowsett, who will also compete in the road race on Sunday, admitted rage had been a powerful source of motivation. "I kind of spent the month getting really angry, not at anyone in particular, just angry at the situation," he said. "But I have always been the same ever since I was a kid - I usually pull something big out of the bag when I am fairly angry." Bronze medallist Thomas, the only Brit to complete this year's Tour, finishing a creditable 22nd, said he had found competing for Wales relaxing. "It's totally different to Team Sky," he said. "So that's good."

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