David Millar - in profile

No British cyclist divides opinion like him. There is only one David Millar.

by jimmythecuckoo   February 8, 2012  

David Millar (copyright Elyob:Wikimedia Commons).jpg

Even Mark Cavendish doesn't divide opinion in the British Cycling scene like David Millar, and that is saying something..! But why is the Scot seen as so controversial and marmite-esque? 

Here's what I think...

David Millar exploded on the world cycling scene at the turn of the millennium having dominated stages in the Tour de L'Avenir in the late 90's. At that time we were seeing Chris Boardman retire and only had the likes of Max Sciandri to hang our hats on as British riders. 

Millar was exactly what we needed. A lad who had come through the drag-strip time trialling route with High Wycombe CC before winning a Tour de France prologue. All of this achieved whilst riding for a stylish continental pro-team in Cofidis and wearing massive Oakley sunglasses. He was what most of us aspired to be . 

Even though he was born in Malta, lived in Scotland and had spent time in Hong Kong, that only added to the myth surrounding him. He was one of us, but he had seen the world and was now giving the drug fuelled continental cyclists a bit of their own medicine. 

Sadly it couldn't last...

We all felt let down..

Millar was busted in June 2004 and under police questioning confessed to using EPO. Our best cycling hope for decades had been ousted as a cheat and his career was in ruins. 

I remember that time well. I was just getting back into the sport after a little break and it seriously made me question why I wanted to be involved in cycling. Millar had broken my sporting heart and I was gutted. 

It was a feeling that was commonplace in the club scene. The same things that had worked to create Millar as an icon were the things that made his doping suspension worse. He had been idolised because he had shown us it could be done. You could ride club 10's and if you were good enough ride Tour prologues. 

We all dreamed it and believed it, but then it was taken away... 

Honesty the best policy.

Now for the polarisation... when he was away from the sport Millar trained hard and spoke honestly about what had happened to him and how he had arrived at his doping decisions. 

Some people in the sport didnt value his opinions. Some used the old adage "once a cheat, always a cheat" It would never be the same again. 

World Championship jersey's were taken from him and his choice of team to return to the sport could have been better (Saunier Duval, who had the serial cheat Riccardo Ricco on their books), but his return was eagerly awaited. 

Team owner comes with new responsibility

After parting ways with Saunier, he joined the Slipstream organisation that ascended to the top level of professional cycling on the back of an insistence their riders were clean. 

Millar was a co-owner of the team and whilst his results were not as good as pre-ban, I would argue that this has been the best period of his career. 

Elegance as we approach the twilight

Millar is nearer the end of his time in the professional peloton than the start. But he seems to get better and better with age. 

Still abused and criticised by certain quarters for mistakes he made in the past, he has had the balls to go off the front in top races and deservedly wore the pink jersey at the Giro in 2011. 

If there were a competition to award the most elegant pedalling style in the peloton it would be hard to split Bradley Wiggins and Millar. But, I would just edge on the Scot.

 

 

...Reading this piece back it comes across as I am pro-David Millar, which would be true. I understand that there are large numbers of people who will never forgive him for his past, however much he has tried to makes amends since coming back. 

Millar is prickly when interviewed and has a pretty strong attitutde, which again can alienate. 

But I would still make a case for him being the most influential British professional cyclist of our generation.

 

But what does everyone else think? 

 

 

 

12 user comments

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His book paints a better picture than any interview or profile (no offence Jimmy). Obviously it's written from his own point of view, and some have criticised it as being full of excuses - David unwilling to shoulder the blame for the things he did.

The way I read it was that various things in his life contributed to those mistakes and have helped make him who he is. He can't really change that, and each of us in our own way would say the same.

What he can change is what he does going forward in the light of the knowing why things happened. His position within Slipstream is a huge opportunity and it appears that he is doing an admirable job. While him speaking out about doping may be difficult for some to swallow I feel (and hope) that he is being honest and clear. Also, there is value in hearing the experience of a 'reformed criminal', so to speak.

I also don't believe the 'saint' label he has been given. I think he is fully aware of the skeletons in his cupboard. I think that his demeanour and manner of speaking is part of his personality. If it rubs you up that may say more about you than him. It's easier to judge someone the less you know about them.

Perhaps because of his misdemeanours his achievements have been underappreciated. I'd be interested to know what other, particularly younger riders gain from working with him. Perhaps we'll eventually find out in a second book.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2000 posts]
9th February 2012 - 14:50

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Simon E wrote:
Perhaps because of his misdemeanours his achievements have been underappreciated. I'd be interested to know what other, particularly younger riders gain from working with him. Perhaps we'll eventually find out in a second book.

One point often overlooked (and never mentioned by his detractors) is that it was Millar's work after his ban with British Cycling and UK Anti-doping that made them fully aware of the extent and nature of the doping culture and helped lead to systems and support being put in place for young riders coming after him.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8253 posts]
9th February 2012 - 15:29

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David Millar has my vote ! My 13 year-old has read his book and is open-minded enough to draw his own conclusions - he is a fan, too, so I believe he has certainly influenced ONE young rider, at least. I feel certain Millar will leave a lasting lesson for all riders of the future.

Cycling - not just a pastime or sport - free your soul on the open road.

timbola's picture

posted by timbola [210 posts]
10th February 2012 - 10:34

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Sometimes life changing mistakes can make for a better person. If you read the book you will truly understand David Millar. You will find a complex individual that loves his sport and appreciates that the mistakes he made were due in part to his mental insecurities. I personaaly believe that David is a role model for so many and that he is, as you have stated, better for the errors he made. Chapeau David. You have shown that through adversity one can still achieve, be proud and if you make a mistake no one should hold it around your neck for eternity.....

ianj's picture

posted by ianj [15 posts]
11th February 2012 - 14:37

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I dont always agree with what he says and how he says it but i am always willing to hear what he says. It is easy to condemn people from the comfort of the moral highground but it is a fool who makes mistakes but an even bigger one that doesnt learn from them and Millar is a prime example of how we can learn from our mistakes and become better at what we do when we do.
I like him.

posted by Some Fella [786 posts]
11th February 2012 - 15:10

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I really like David Millar.

I can sympathise with both sides of the argument for his inclusion in Olympic cycling, and I haven't really made my own mind up yet.

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1730 posts]
11th February 2012 - 23:54

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In my mind he has served his ban and made massive inroads in the education of cyclists about the use of drugs for which he should be congratulated.

The Garmin team are reknowned for their views regarding the use of drugs and Millar has played a big part in their philosophy..

As for entering the Olympics i dont see why the BOA have the stance they do and i dont believe Millar has ever said he wants to race only that if allowed he would.

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2809 posts]
12th February 2012 - 11:48

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On the Olympic thing, I have just seen Dwayne Chambers on Sky Sports News...

If he gets in then there is no reason why Millar shouldn't..?

jimmythecuckoo's picture

posted by jimmythecuckoo [1274 posts]
12th February 2012 - 20:58

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I read his book only last week and got the feeling that he was lead down the road regarding the doping, that is just my view, but good luck to the guy as i think he has learned a hard lesson.

JohnMartin's picture

posted by JohnMartin [11 posts]
13th February 2012 - 20:14

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I know its an increasingly unpopular opinion, but I dont think Millar should get a ride at the olympics. He cheated to become Timetrial World Champion - I accept its a mistake, and he accepts that, but it was a bloody big one that risked the whole team GB set up.

We have plenty of great riders at the moment - look at the results from last week - lets keep the Team GB at the Olympics for clean riders

posted by fiftyacorn [91 posts]
15th February 2012 - 22:53

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If I may, this blog I wrote last year was talked about by Jonathan Vaughters and I've been told Millar read it. Its all about how everyone should be given second chances, AS LONG AS there is clear effort and contrition. Hope you enjoy it.

http://www.vulpine.cc/Blog/pro-cycling/cycling-characters,-part-iii-davi...

www.vulpine.cc
@aslongasicycle
@vulpinecc

aslongasicycle's picture

posted by aslongasicycle [309 posts]
17th February 2012 - 14:35

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Devil For heaven sake, give the guy a break! He's served his time, admitted his mistakes, now let him move on.Don't we all make mistakes? At the minute we're investigating all sorts of scallies in the police, MP's, bankers etc, etc.
Get off your high & mighty horses and get out on your bike!
George Legend

Geordie Legend
Being an old timer and new to the game, I'd just love it if I won these wheels! Let's hear it for the pensioners.They need all the help they can get!!!!

posted by John Molloy [10 posts]
28th February 2012 - 22:26

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