Retired pro cyclist David Millar, nicknamed Le Dandy by the French press in the early days of his career, has been outlining plans for his own clothing label which will initially focus on cycling but later be expanded into a full menswear line.
Speaking to the Telegraph’s Oliver Pickup ahead of the London Bike Show, Millar, who retired at the end of last season after nearly two decades in the peloton, also said that he is planning another book that will provide a sharp contrast to his 2011 autobiography Racing Through The Dark, as well as spending time with his wife and two young children.
Winner of stages in all three Grand Tours and the first Briton to wear the leader’s jersey in each of them – something only Sir Bradley Wiggins has emulated to date – the 38-year-old revealed that the first collection for his clothing brand is being developed with the help of Castelli, who supplied the Garmin-Sharp team he joined in 2008.
“I want to create a whole new fashion brand, eventually, and make it work commercially,” he said. That’s my real baby. It has been my passion for a while.
“We’ll start with the cycling clothing, because that’s what I know and I have such a great relationship with Castelli, having worked with them for eight or nine years.”
Set to go to art school shortly before deciding instead to pursue a cycling career full-time, Millar’s dress sense stood out from his fellow pros off the bike and sometimes on it, too – remember those over-the-top-of-the-head Oakley sunglasses he once sported in his Cofidis days?
But he says the soubriquet bestowed on him by L’Equipe and others didn’t reflect his true self. “I really hated that nickname, at the time,” he confessed. “I was never a dandy.
“For me it represented a poser, sort of somebody who showed off. I actually cared about the clothes that I wore. When there was late ‘90s and ‘00s blandness, I would wear hats and was a bit quirky. I understood it, I got it. And I still wear exactly the same clothes I did at that time.”
He wants to translate that sense of individuality to his new venture. “I thought: ‘I’m going to do it the way I want to do it now because I don’t have to answer to anybody. I’ll go as far as creating my own brand and making a whole new idea of what cycling is to me.’ That’s my whole thing now.”
Outspoken on the issue of doping once he’d returned from his own two-year ban for using EPO – which also saw him stripped of the World Time Trial Championship he’d won in 2003 – Millar is similarly opinionated on the subject of fashion.
“The majority of the men’s fashion brands just lie; they’re basically women’s brands trying to cater for men,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything out there for men that is actually real, that’s authentic. I would like to create something that I feel represents me in so many ways.
“It will have a style and feeling to it, which I don’t think many people do in anything anymore. To be honest, it’s always too manufactured. I’ve only ever operated at the top end, if you like, but what I want to do is bring that down slightly and stop it all being so serious, which I’m sick of. I got a bit bored of being a professional cyclist and a bit of a dork.”
He added that the feeling of liberation from obligations to his team and sponsors would also extend to his cycling, saying: “When I next go out it will be on a painted, customised bike, not covered in branding. I don’t want to feel like a human billboard anymore. I want to go out and feel like, ‘Yeah, I own this now.’”
As for family life, he said: “I’ve figured out that what’s important to me now is spending time with my boys – it’s the only thing that I can never get back. Everything else you can get back in one way or another in different mediums. The only thing I’ll never get back is my time with my sons, so I’m not going to mess that up.”
While his previous autobiography focused in large part on the culture of doping that led to police raiding his Biarritz apartment and discovering syringes he had used to inject himself with EPO he says his next work will be more of a celebration of riding bikes.
“Racing Through the Dark came across as an apologist’s tract and was obviously a book I needed to write, to fill in all the gaps about doping,” he said. “And it was an attempt to explain what happened for my whole generation,” he continues.
“It wasn’t cathartic on a personal level because I’d kind of already done that just living it. People wanted me to update it but I thought if I was going to write another book it would be about my love for professional cycling – the antithesis, if you like.
“Now I’d like to write another book which is simply the voice of me as a professional bike racer. I’ve many different memories that made up my life as a racer. I don’t have to now rant on about doping and Lance Armstrong. I can actually talk about being a bike racer.”
Despite a past for which many in Britain will never forgive him – the British Olympic Association appealed unsuccessfully to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against the overturn of its lifetime ban for ex-dopers, which freed him to captain Team GB on the road at London 2012 – Millar does not regret his choice of career.
“It’s quite lovely that I've ended up where I am, in that there’s no way I’d have had the opportunities I have now had I had taken the normal route,” he explained. “Even doing the films and that sort of thing, I’d have never been able to tap into this sort of any creativeness.
He added: “Everything I have I owe to my love of professional cycling and making that choice in the mid-1990s that I wanted to be a pro biker and not go to art college. Twenty years later, and I end up doing all the things that would have been a far-fetched dream then.”
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.