David Millar won Scotland’s first ever Commonwealth Games road cycling medal with bronze at the end of an epic road race in the centre of Delhi.
The Tour de France star declared himself “very proud” after finishing third to Allan Davis of Australia and Hayden Roulston of New Zealand, who, with Millar, Dave McCann of Northern Ireland and Chris Sutton of Australia, were in the five-man group that fought it out for the medals.
In the closing stages Millar was the main aggressor, trying repeatedly to break clear in a bid to avoid having to sprint against Davis, one of the fastest finishers in the world. But with Sutton able to counter Millar’s attacks, and then lead out Davis for the sprint, Millar had to be content with bronze.
With a full complement of six Team Scotland riders in the race, Millar was well supported, and he paid tribute at the finish to the work done in the first half by David Lines, James McCallum and Ross Creber, with Evan Oliphant and Andy Fenn the riders assigned to support him – and be in the mix themselves – in the second half of a 168km race run off in 41-degree heat.
“I really enjoyed racing with this jersey and with this team,” said Millar. “Three of the boys were looking after me in the first half of the race, and it was Evan and Andy’s job to follow the attacks when they started coming in the second half.
“They all excelled – they were as good as my pro’ team. They were all very motivated and I think motivation has a big effect. I wouldn’t have got the medal without them and I’m proud of them all.
“I haven’t raced with such heart and with such passion for a long time,” continued Millar. “I came here for [Wednesday’s] time trial, but I went really deep today, and I’d like to say thank you to Scotland for having me.
“It was an epic race, it just kept going, and it goes to show that you don’t need a hard course to make a great race. It was very hard. I couldn’t believe it when I kept attacking, kept whittling it down, I was like, ‘this is on’.
“I attacked so many times towards the end. I knew I’d get beaten in a sprint, because I’m not a sprinter, so I just kept trying to whittle down the group and get away on my own. I’m happy with a bronze medal. I came here to get gold in the time trial so I’m happy.”
Earlier, in the women’s road race, Team Scotland started with a full team of six riders for the first time. And although Kate Cullen and Eileen Roe, the team’s protected riders, were below par, having both suffering from illness in recent days, cycling manager Alasdair MacLennan was delighted that all six – Cullen, Roe, Pippa Handley, Jane Barr, Claire Thomas and Anne Ewing – finished in the same group as gold medallist Rochelle Gilmore of Australia.
“This is a young and very inexperienced team,” said MacLennan, “but they rode well, they followed instructions, and it’s very positive for Glasgow in 2014.”