Millar is enriched by pain and suffering

Scottish cyclist produces both the potential and survival instinct necessary to be a winner of the Tour de France

The Scottish flags flew on the Champs Elysées. It was Millar time again, according to his fans' T-shirts, and David Millar finished his first Tour de France with a flourish. Just as he had started it.

The Scottish flags flew on the Champs Elysées. It was Millar time again, according to his fans' T-shirts, and David Millar finished his first Tour de France with a flourish. Just as he had started it.

In between that first yellow jersey at the Futuroscope theme park and his big but abortive attack in Paris there was pain, suffering and 3,662 kilometres. "I have learned a lot over three weeks," Millar said, and one sharp lesson was how to battle on although your body is battered from a crash.

He fell twice, but the second on the road to the Ventoux mountain almost two weeks ago left the Scot in agony. His neck bore an angry burn from a spinning tyre and an X-ray showed a dislocated collarbone. He was in agony, but soldiered on aided by pain-killers.

"After my Ventoux crash I was creeping, but as I improved I just took it easy. I never had a thought about quitting," he said, and on one mountain when he was with a group of stragglers Millar sportingly pushed a struggling Magnus Backstedt to keep the Swede going. That moment on the podium in the yellow jersey seemed distant on those days of suffering through the Alps, but there was only one remaining objective, Paris or bust.

He was told by team official Alain Bondue that it was necessary to feel the real agony of three days in the Alps to prepare himself for greater times on future Tours. One Alpine stage lasted eight and a half hours, and those with the survival instinct plugged away to reach the finish before the elimination deadline.

"You are just in your own little world. No one talks. You are all too tired," Millar said. Sunday night in Paris was party-time as he and other riders, plus his family and schoolfriends who flew in from Hong Kong, relaxed after a debut that heralds a great future.

"He has the potential to be a Tour winner in a few years," Bondue, of Millar's Cofidis team, said, only the fall ruining more chances of seeing that potential in action. Teamwork is crucial in the Tour, but Millar would not have reached such racing heights without the help of an unseen team.

For now he can unwind, with three yellow jerseys in his bag. A new one is awarded each day a rider leads, and a bunch of former internationals will be hoping that one of those jerseys is coming their way. "Last year we raised £800 by auctioning one of Lance Armstrong's yellow jerseys," said Keith Lambert, one of seven ex-racers who vet talented applicants seekingfinancial support from the Dave Rayner Fund.

In 1996 Millar was the first they funded towards setting up a European career. "Since then David has kept telling us 'if it was not for you guys I would not have made it'," Lambert said. "His performance is beyond our wildest dreams. We thought the fund would wane after five years but it is just getting stronger, and this is sure to help. Riders get a monthly payment to help them out, but they have to be hungry for success, too."

Millar became a professional at 20 for French sponsors Cofidis when Armstrong was in the team. "I was around before British cycling had its World Class Performance programme and a proper national team," Millar said. "That is one of the reasons I turned professional so early. I did not have much option."

Millar is not alone on the success trail thanks to the fund. Charly Wegelius races for the world's No 1 team, Mapei of Italy, and Jamie Burrow last year was ranked the best under-22 in the world. He is with Armstrong's team, US Postal Services. "We never thought we would get three as good as that in such a short time. Dave Rayner would have been proud of what has been achieved. Our reward is seeing these lads succeed," Lambert said of the Yorkshireman who raced for a Dutch professional team, but died six years ago.

Millar is the 50th Briton to start a Tour de France, since Charles Holland in 1937, and the 22nd to go the full distance. He finished 62nd, more than two hours and 13 minutes behind Armstrong, who put into perspective the feeling of completing the Tour. "Three weeks is a long time whether you are first or 101st. It's a special feeling, and a real sense of accomplishment, and it changes a rider for the rest of his career."

That certainly rings true for Santiago Botero,who was crowned King of the Mountains, the first Colombian to take that title since LuchoHerrera in 1987.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'