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"Thankfully gender issues are no longer a subject of such ignorance and intolerance," she says...

ITV4 is providing full coverage of this year’s Tour de France, and will have a new pundit on board for the rest of the race, Philippa York. You may not have heard of her, but she’s won more stages of cycling’s biggest race than you ever will, and is also the first Briton to have won a jersey there, taking the mountains classification in 1984.

She used to go by the name Robert Millar, and won three Tour de France stages in her career as well as stages in the Vuelta a Espana and Giro d’Italia, making her a member of a very exclusive club.

In 1985, York was arguably the strongest rider in the Vuelta and perhaps would have won the overall but for Spanish riders from different teams coming together to ensure a home winner and thwart her efforts.

York is a columnist on Cyclingnews.com, and blogged there today about her role in ITV4’s commentary team, which she described as “a very exciting prospect” and her decision to go public about her transition.

She wrote: “To be asked to be one of their experts for certain key moments is a sign that we have moved on in terms of wishing to really understand the complexities involved in cycling, and I’m keen to share my experience of how endlessly fascinating and demanding professional bike racing can be.

“The mention of progress and moving on brings me to a much more personal subject concerning the journey I, and those around me, embarked upon at the start of this millennium. The outcome of that journey has meant that for a considerable time now I have lived as Philippa.

“As much as I've guarded my privacy over the years there are a few, I believe obvious, reasons to why I haven't had a public ‘image’ since I transitioned.

“Gratifyingly, times have moved on from ten years ago when my family, friends and I were subjected to the archaic views and prejudice that some people and certain sections of the tabloid media held.”

The 58-year-old continued: “Thankfully gender issues are no longer a subject of such ignorance and intolerance, there's a much better acceptance and understanding.

“The steps taken over a prolonged period under the watchful eye of the medical profession to complete the transition from one gender to another can be difficult and are always only taken after much soul searching and anguish.

“And, although the end result is seen as a happier, more stable place, the emotions encountered to get there make for some very vulnerable periods.”

York added: “I really am delighted to have accepted this new challenge with ITV4; I’m looking forward to the racing immensely and in terms of my personal and professional development I think this is the right time to return to a more active role in cycling too – the sport I've always loved.”

We wish her all the best with it, and welcome back.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

63 comments

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Carton [395 posts] 7 months ago
20 likes
Quote:

We wish her all the best with it, and welcome back.

Seconded.

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scooterjinx [23 posts] 7 months ago
5 likes

great news, Robert Millar first got me into cycling. Forgotten legend of British cycling 

 

 

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mylesrants [394 posts] 7 months ago
1 like

super rider, good writer, will enjoy the input.

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BehindTheBikesheds [1328 posts] 7 months ago
8 likes

Always nice to have an ex-pro giving a viewpoint on racing and certainly one from BITD when I was first starting out, it's being too long IMHO for one of Britain's top cycling hero's.

However, surely when referring to the achievements you would use the name Robert and/or Millar, afterall it was that named person that achieved them?

"In 1985, York was arguably the strongest rider in the Vuelta and perhaps would have won the overall but for Spanish riders from different teams coming together to ensure a home winner and thwart her efforts."

This should read 'Millar' and 'his' because Phillipa York did not exist.

I've no problem whatsoever with Miss York, whatever gender or orientation she identifies with is none of my business, however it's incorrect to name her/new persona as the achiever in the cycling world when it was Robert Millar that had done so.
 

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WiznaeMe [66 posts] 7 months ago
0 likes

Great. Looking forward to another seasoned and knowledgeable opinion. 

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Jackson [393 posts] 7 months ago
6 likes
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

Always nice to have an ex-pro giving a viewpoint on racing and certainly one from BITD when I was first starting out, it's being too long IMHO for one of Britain's top cycling hero's.

However, surely when referring to the achievements you would use the name Robert and/or Millar, afterall it was that named person that achieved them?

"In 1985, York was arguably the strongest rider in the Vuelta and perhaps would have won the overall but for Spanish riders from different teams coming together to ensure a home winner and thwart her efforts."

This should read 'Millar' and 'his' because Phillipa York did not exist.

I've no problem whatsoever with Miss York, whatever gender or orientation she identifies with is none of my business, however it's incorrect to name her/new persona as the achiever in the cycling world when it was Robert Millar that had done so.
 

You don't know that and it's not for you to decide.

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riotgibbon [231 posts] 7 months ago
14 likes
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

, whatever gender or orientation she identifies with is none of my business,
 

I think you meant to stop there ...

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Simon_MacMichael [2503 posts] 7 months ago
13 likes

BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

This should read 'Millar' and 'his' because Phillipa York did not exist.

So I'm guessing Lizzie Deignan didn't win the road world championship in 2015?

 

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Simon_MacMichael [2503 posts] 7 months ago
6 likes

BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

This should read 'Millar' and 'his' because Phillipa York did not exist.

I've no problem whatsoever with Miss York, whatever gender or orientation she identifies with is none of my business, however it's incorrect to name her/new persona as the achiever in the cycling world when it was Robert Millar that had done so

Philippa (check your spelling) did exist, she just went by a different name back then. 

She's won a polka-dot jersey at the Tour de France. You?

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madcarew [515 posts] 7 months ago
3 likes

Simon, I think your Lizzie Deignan comment made the point perfectly. 

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Reedo [24 posts] 7 months ago
0 likes

Chapeau, Philippa. I'm looking forward to more race commentary soon. Trans/gender issues in cycling still have a long way to go (see www.ibistrannyreview.com or #NoPodiumGirls as different examples). Everyone has something to contribute toward progress. 

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Mungecrundle [866 posts] 7 months ago
12 likes

Cycling. It's all about the legs not what's between them.

Best of luck to Philippa.

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brooksby [2919 posts] 7 months ago
1 like
Simon_MacMichael wrote:
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

This should read 'Millar' and 'his' because Phillipa York did not exist.

I've no problem whatsoever with Miss York, whatever gender or orientation she identifies with is none of my business, however it's incorrect to name her/new persona as the achiever in the cycling world when it was Robert Millar that had done so

Philippa (check your spelling) did exist, she just went by a different name back then. 

She's won a polka-dot jersey at the Tour de France. You?

Its not always that straightforward. A friend of mine who transitioned says that her former (male) self is dead, and doesn't like talking about about anything anything that happened before she existed because it brings back bad memories.

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ianguignet [30 posts] 7 months ago
3 likes

LEGEND

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longwayround [3 posts] 7 months ago
7 likes

In the Guardian:

'Asked how she has dealt in recent years with the fact that the world of cycling had one image of her and she had another, York says: “I can only deal with that by putting the Robert part of my life into one box and the life I live now into another.

“What I did before wasn’t done by the person I am now so it’s not a case of changing history. I think for most people looking at this from the outside that’s the easiest way for them to process it. That’s my opinion – others may disagree and that’s fine.” '

 

Which sounds to me as though Philippa sees Robert as the polka dot jersey winner. 

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Anders Friden [1 post] 7 months ago
5 likes
madcarew wrote:

Simon, I think your Lizzie Deignan comment made the point perfectly. 

 

Well it didn't, did it? Her name changed because she got married, not because she chose to be identfied as a completely different person.  

BehindTheBikesheds was just stating fact and questioning the continutity of the records - after all if you want to be technical about it the article is stating a woman won stages in a mens race.....

 

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Simontuck [193 posts] 7 months ago
1 like

A lot of punditry involves droning on and on about the races you've been in and past experiences, if current ones are anything to go by. So it should be interesting to see what she talks about, and how she gets over the issue, that all of her cycling achievements were made by 'her previous self'. She's very brave to put herself forward as such a high profile experiment in what is quite a blinkered sport. I struggle to think of any riders that have even come out as gay (which I am aware is not the same as being TG)

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Flying Scot [1005 posts] 7 months ago
1 like
Simontuck wrote:

. I struggle to think of any riders that have even come out as gay (which I am aware is not the same as being TG)

Multiple World Champion, Time Trial legend and former Le Groupement team mate of Millar's Mr Graeme Obree is certainly one.

You may have heard of him, what with the full length feature films and all!

 

Anyway, best of luck with the commentary Philippa, look forward to it.

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alotronic [538 posts] 7 months ago
1 like

Ahhh, that makes sense of the pubic reticence - it's a shame that she didn't feel comfortable for all those years but great that she is able to be public now, her blogs on cyclingnews have always been sharp so her commentary will be interesting. And there's a book I want to read!

And happy to see comments in support here.

After all the macho crap at BC it's nice to see that the sport is *perhaps* opening up a little? Hope so, it's a big world with lots of people in it and we need more diversity and equality in sport as it helps set the tone for the rest of society.

 

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Simon E [3206 posts] 7 months ago
5 likes

Keep arguing about tiny details and you won't ever have to look at the bigger picture.

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Yorkshire wallet [1701 posts] 7 months ago
2 likes

Sport is facing lots dilemmas with sort of situation. Women's sport in particular seems at risk from people not wanting to draw a line in the sand. Look at MMA and Fallon Fox, born a male, matured a (muscular) male, starts taking female hormones and then is allowed to compete as a female to literally break her opponents face. You don't just lose all the advantages of being male overnight.

I read something else about a transgender athlete being allowed to compete against women before they had even started any sort of physical reassignment, which is clearly wrong.

What is going on in the main story makes no difference to anyone but for currently active athletes it raises a lot of questions and if was a biologically born female I'd probably feel very much at a disadvantage against someone transitioning.

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Edgeley [523 posts] 7 months ago
3 likes

For lots of people my age, an early memory is Robert Millar taking the wrong route at the top of a mountain.    We weren't aware that it was a metaphor.

 

Great to have Phillipa as a pundit, and it is fantastic that she can share her knowledge of cycling, and even better that we have progressed to the point where very few people will find it a problem, including her.

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Jack Osbourne snr [682 posts] 7 months ago
0 likes

I'm delighted with this news on a number of levels... 

I was a huge fan of Robert as a rider and was always sad that he withdrew from public view and wasn't around to share his experiences.

Not only are his experiences accessible again but as Philippa the person that was Robert is now likely to be happier than they ever were previously.

Can't wait for the commentary to begin! I might well have a tear in my eye.

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Beatnik69 [402 posts] 7 months ago
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The first 'racing' bike I ever had was an Emmelle from the Kay's catalogue (no sniggering) and I'm pretty sure it had Robert Millar's signature on it. I'd love to know what happened to that bike.

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Mungecrundle [866 posts] 7 months ago
5 likes

If she has any doubts about how cycling fans might react to her new and improved gender status, then I hope she comes to this website to read the comments.

I'm proud to be a road.cc reader today.

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riotgibbon [231 posts] 7 months ago
0 likes

the relatively few 'yes, but' comments I find quite heartening - the vast majority of the opinions, from the headlines down, show how far we've come in dealing with this subject. My turning point came when I was looking through my linkedin contacts, and thought "eh, I don't remember working with those people, where did I meet them?", then realising they had transitioned

 

one wasn't a surprise really, the other one was a big surprise

 

there's going to be some people who have a problem, and as usual they'll present it as anything other than their own prejudice, but their mercifully small numbers show that we really are getting better at accepting people for who they are now.  I heard transphobia described as the "new racism", and future generations will look back on it as we do on the  "black and white minstrel show"

 

it's great that Phillipa can crack on making a living and being open in an a sport she mastered in the past, and can keep contributing to. Dogs bark, caravan still rolls

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JonD [494 posts] 7 months ago
0 likes
Simon_MacMichael wrote:
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

This should read 'Millar' and 'his' because Phillipa York did not exist.

I've no problem whatsoever with Miss York, whatever gender or orientation she identifies with is none of my business, however it's incorrect to name her/new persona as the achiever in the cycling world when it was Robert Millar that had done so

Philippa (check your spelling) did exist, she just went by a different name back then. 

She's won a polka-dot jersey at the Tour de France. You?

 

Well, it's not clear as whether she'd prefer to identify as Robert or Philippa in her earlier career  (or whether it's much of an issue), but

'Asked how she has dealt in recent years with the fact that the world of cycling had one image of her and she had another, York says: “I can only deal with that by putting the Robert part of my life into one box and the life I live now into another." '

might suggest she's fine with Robert, and the interview article itself seems to distinguish between then and now, presumably with her agreement (tho' the Guardian's likely to be sensitive to that, I'd expect).

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jul/06/philippa-york-gender-trans...

 

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steviewevie [52 posts] 7 months ago
0 likes

Good for her.

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Jimmy Ray Will [852 posts] 7 months ago
1 like
Jack Osbourne snr wrote:

I'm delighted with this news on a number of levels... 

I was a huge fan of Robert as a rider and was always sad that he withdrew from public view and wasn't around to share his experiences.

Not only are his experiences accessible again but as Philippa the person that was Robert is now likely to be happier than they ever were previously.

Can't wait for the commentary to begin! I might well have a tear in my eye.

 

I would say that with delight is also how I took this news. 

The best cycling writer in the business, brilliant to potentially have that back on a more regular level.

But...the biggest thing is knowing one of my childhood heroes is at a place of happiness and no longer feeling the need to hide in the shadows.

As for how people will refer to her past... I'd suggest as adults we can probably work it out. 

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alansmurphy [1663 posts] 7 months ago
0 likes

Like dinosaur, I think BTBS raises a point about the way we record things as opposed to any choice made by Philippa. I wonder what the actual rules would be if Philippa was 24 (for example) now and wanted to compete in a mens race, but she was competing in a mens race at the time.

 

On the issue of trans gender, I think it's interesting, along with the comparisons to racism, that certain demographics will struggle with this probably until they die off. I imagine Jim Davidson would still call her 'he' and make 'jokes' and try firm handshakes and back slaps. I think younger people and the more intelligent amongst the population just carry on and respect her wishes.

 

Anyway, to the point, it's great that we will have her insights!

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