I’ve followed cycling ever 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
Being honest, 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 was over as a spectacle for a neutral fan. 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. He also took the yellow jersey after winning the 2000 Tour de France 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.
In 2004, French police searched his apartment and found two used vials of EPO. 24 hours later, he confessed to doping in 2001 and 2003. He claimed it was as a result of losing the 2001 World Time Trial and the 2003 Tour de France prologue. Millar received a ban for 2 years, starting from the date of his confession. This meant that he was able to ride the 2006 Tour de France for Saunier Duval-Prodir.
The comeback from suspension
Here was a guy with a point to prove. Millar was the first rider I remember speaking bluntly about the effects of doping. He told people asking stupid questions where to go and then he put in a decent performance.
The first race back was the 2006 Tour de France where he finished 59th Overall. He was also 17th in the prologue and 11th in the final time trial. Millar went on to win the time trial in the 2006 Vuelta too. He joined Team Slipstream for 2007, a team with a strong anti-doping stance.
Since his return he’s been the poster boy of the reformed doper, coming back to the peloton to clean it up. He achieved 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. Personally, he will always be a cut above those who denied doping for years like Floyd Landis or Lance Armstrong. He is still one of the few doping cases where a rider owned up almost straight away. 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 at that time you could see fronting an indie band or becoming a tortured novelist. To me, this made him stand out, as a rider with a deep complex brooding personality. I would definitely want him on my side.