By Julien Pretot
LONDON (Reuters) - He was not even supposed to be here, yet David Millar is expected to play a key role in fellow Briton Mark Cavendish's quest for gold in the men's Olympic road race on Saturday.
Millar was selected only after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) overturned a British Olympic Association lifetime Olympic ban for former drug cheats and his tactical nous and experience will be a huge plus as the British team look to control the 250-km race.
Britain will start the race that begins and finishes on The Mall in central London with Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins and runner-up Chris Froome as well as British champion Ian Stannard, but Millar's experience could be the decisive factor.
He showed his tactical skills when he perfectly timed his attack to jump away from a breakaway group with France's Jean-Christophe Peraud, a rider he knew was easy to beat in a two-man sprint finish, to win the 12th stage of the Tour de France.
"David's tactical nous is a blessing," Britain's director of performance David Brailsford said. "He is a massive asset."
Millar said his role would be to make sure the team kept their focus and executed their plan.
"My role is panic management, so we get a grip on it again if something goes wrong," said Millar.
Cavendish praised his team mate's sang-froid.
"He is able to stay calm and analyze situations really, really well. He knows this sport and he's not scared to call shots," Cavendish said.
"He is not hesitant and that's great, as someone who knows how to read a race and is willing to take the responsibility, it's refreshing to have.
"And he is strong, he knows how to ride for a sprint, he knows how to ride climbs, all types of terrain."
On Saturday, Britain will look to repeat the ride that helped them propel Cavendish to the world title last September.
Once again, Millar's role will be pivotal and he knows exactly what needs to be done in the race, which is harder to control than professional races with teams limited to five riders rather than the nine racing in trade teams.
"Let's say we've got eight in that five," said Millar.
"Wiggins and Froome just finished first and second in the Tour de France so they're worth four guys.
"We've got Cav who is worth two guys in the sprint and then we've got Stannard, who when on a great day, is worth a few more.
"We'll be racing Mark's race in many ways, controlling it to his speed and so there's going to be races within races and it's up to us to manage it from start to finish in a manner that gets the race together in the last kilometer."
Or even closer to the line.
"Even if we're catching people with 500 meters to go as long as we're there with Mark to do his sprint," Millar said.
"Mine, in many ways, is the easy job. It's managing them and the race situation between teams and staying on top of it." (Editing by Greg Stutchbury)
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