In Search of Robert Millar, Richard Moore (2007)

A readable and stimulating biography of Britain’s most sucessful stage-race rider of the ’80s

HarperSport 978 0 00 723501 360pp £15.99

At the time of this book’s publication, Robert Millar was arguably the greatest stage race cyclist that Britain had every produced – and by virtue of his post-career behaviour, no small enigma. Given the current enthusiasm for cycling-related books, it seems surprising that a biography of Millar took so long to appear. The only thing keeping would-be hagiographists back, presumably, was the near certainty that Millar would not co-operate.

Moore, however, offers a great deal more that the standard sports-biog. First he was a cyclist himself – good enough to represent Scotland at the Commonwealth Games. Second, he knew Millar slightly; as a bit-part player in a Scottish cycling team that Millar managed. It is the quality of Moore’s research and writing, however, that really mark out this book.

He movingly evokes Millar’s ascent up cycling’s greasy pole from a working-class neighbourhood in Glasgow. And, he lifts a bit of the lid on the weirdness of being a professional cyclist in the mid-1980s.

Twenty years on, it is easy to forget just what a phenomenon Millar was, or how he achieved his success almost entirely alone. To read this book is to rediscover the joy of seeing Millar shoot out from a group on one of the great French climbs. It is also good to learn that he had friends and admirers in the peleton – even if most of his professional colleagues remained wary of him.

Moore even goes some way to get to the bottom of the persistent stories that Millar has now had a sex change.

However jaded you feel with cycling biographies, this one still has something to give.

PS May 08

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