David Millar - in profile
No British cyclist divides opinion like him. There is only one David Millar.
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?