Rober Millar isn’t just Great Britain’s best climber and Grand tour finisher, he’s where my love of road cycling springs from and an inimitable icon.
The piece below has been doing the rounds of cycling fora over the last couple of days. It features Millar, late in his career, revisiting his home town of Glasgow with a French television crew in tow. Unsurprisingly, he’s word-perfect in French and idiomatic with it to boot. That is quite some skill.
I’ve been trying to piece together my earliest cycling memories because I’ve always struggled to remember where the seed was planted that has lead to what is now a 20-year obsession with the Tour De France. I think it begins with the 1989 Tour and Robert Millar‘s stage 10 victory.
I’ve come to this conclusion because of the relics as much as anything: a Peugeot Equipe boy’s racer which belongs to my brother. He also has somewhere a pair of Z-team mitts and I’m certain he had the jersey as well. That year Millar rode for Z-Peugeot.
I can vaguely recall being glued to the Channel 4 coverage that year as that was the year I won a scholarship to Bradfield College, but really I was more fascinated by cricket at the time. My mum’s Guyanese, cricket to West Indians being a matter as serious as cycling is to Italians.
But I was jealous of my brother’s bike and kit, that much I can remember. Millar’s was nothing like it but every child dreams a bit to covers the gaps in reality. We probably tried to imitate Millar on the hill near our house that led up the railway bridge, me on my Mark 2 Raleigh Burner, him on the Peugeot or his Mark 2 Night Burner.
As the years went by I used to look at the Peugeot in the garage and think about riding more. But I ended up with a god-awful Peugeot mountain bike on which the backend was so poorly built that the wheel pulled off to one side under any pressure on the pedals. That put me off riding for ages.
When I rediscovered cycling I rediscovered Millar as well, a guy so cool he featured in The Face magazine at a time when it was the hippest thing in the newsagent.