I’ve been following cycling since I was plonked in front of the Channel 4 programme back in 1997, the year that Jan Ulrich won his Tour. The following year I followed the whole thing and saw Marco Pantani zoom off and win.
This list is those that have captured my attention and been the stuff of dreams ever since!
3 – David Millar
I’ll be honest here, I lost touch with cycling a bit in the early 00s, it had reached a similar situation to Formula 1 where one guy, in the best team with the best technology just romped home every year. The Tour as a spectacle was finished. As it was, I first picked up on the David Millar story on his Tour comeback with Saunier Duval.
Millar’s early success came from mainly time trials and prologues. taking the yellow jersey after winning the 2000 Prologue. He narrowly lost out on winning the 2003 Prologue in Paris because his chain came off within the last 500 metres. In typical outspoken Millar fashion, he took aim at the directeur sportif who had made the decision to not fit a front derailleur. He lost that Prologue by a mere 0.14 seconds.
Here was a guy with a point to prove and he was the first rider I remember being bluntly outspoken about the effects of doping. People asking stupid questions were told where to go and he put in a decent performance.
Since then he’s been the pinnacle of the reformed doper, coming back to the peloton to clean it up. He’s managed big wins as a clean rider, such as stages in the 2006 & 2009 Vuelta, 2007 Paris – Nice prologue, a 2011 Giro stage and a 2012 Tour de France stage. In my mind he will always be a cut above those who denied it and denied it for years like a Floyd Landis or Lance Armstrong. He is still one of the few doping cases I can think of where he owned up pretty much straight away and to me this shows an awful lot about David Millar’s character.
As a rider he became an elite domestique, capable of a good result on his day in almost any field but usually seen marshalling the Garmin troops. David Millar was the only rider in the peloton that you could see fronting an indie band or becoming a tortured novelist, this is what makes him stand out, a rider with a deep complex brooding personality. I would definitely want him on my side. He’s since become a very good part of the ITV4 cycling broadcasting team and a welcome addition to the team with Chris Boardman.