Long road ahead to fix the team problem with Miller

PRACTICE RUN: Andre Greipel (centre white jersey) rides with the rest of the Lotto Belisol Team for the Tour de France out training on the course for Stage 1 of the Race between Leeds and Harrogate as they tackle a climb near Leyburn

PRACTICE RUN: Andre Greipel (centre white jersey) rides with the rest of the Lotto Belisol Team for the Tour de France out training on the course for Stage 1 of the Race between Leeds and Harrogate as they tackle a climb near Leyburn

First published in Sport

GARMIN-SHARP manager Jonathan Vaughters admitted it will take time to mend bridges with veteran British rider David Millar after the Scot was left out of the team’s Tour de France squad.

Millar reacted publicly and angrily on Monday once he learned that he had been pulled out of what would have been his final Tour – starting on home soil in Leeds tomorrow – before retirement due to concerns over the lingering effects of an illness.

Millar was told of the decision by sporting director Charly Wegelius after the British road race championship on Sunday evening, before Vaughters took part in a conference call the following morning, but that did not stop Millar making his feelings known to the wider world.

“Unfortunately we’re not back to normal, no,” Vaughters said of his relationship with one of the longest-tenured riders on his team.

“That phone-call was no fun. But it’ll get there.”

Millar had been suffering with a cough in the buildup to Sunday’s race, and ultimately pulled out with 42 kilometres to go.

While Millar insisted he was fit and healthy, Vaughters and Wegelius took the decision that the team’s rule on only selecting riders who were 100 per cent healthy had to apply to all – even if meant ending Millar’s 14-year relationship with cycling’s biggest race.

“The decision to pull him was not very much fun for me or for Charly,” Vaughters said. “When this team moved up to the Tour de France level, David was the first rider who signed a contract with us.

“There’s a lot of history and we all care about David quite a bit. But the end responsibility is the team and getting the best result possible.

You have to be 100 per cent healthy to do that.”

Millar will now prepare for the Commonwealth Games, and will then be given the choice of riding either the Vuelta a Espana or the Tour of Britain as he heads into the final months of his professional career.

In the absence of Millar, Garmin are fielding a young team built around American rider Andrew Talansky, the Criterium du Dauphine winner who is seen as the future of the team as they try to muscle in among the general classification contenders.

While a long, long road lies between Talansky and his goals, for now the Finnishborn, British-raised Wegelius is looking forward to revisiting his old stomping grounds in York on Sunday.

The cycling culture in this country is unrecognisable from the early 1990s, but Wegelius said: “I don’t think it’s all hype. You drive around the roads and see people out there. When I went to school in York cycling was a sport for eccentrics or people who couldn’t afford cars. Now it’s really a mainstream sport.’’

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