In Search of Robert Millar

In-Search-of-Robert-Millar-Moore-Richard-9780007235018After finishing “Slaying the Badger” I saw another book by Roger Moore called, “In Search of Robert Millar” on my kindle for the scant fee of 3 dollars.  I knew next to nothing about Robert Millar, I had heard the name and I always assumed he was current Garmin rider, David Millar’s father since they were both from Scotland.  Now I know that being cyclists from Scotland with the same last name is about all they have in common.

So Robert Millar is claimed to be Britian’s best ever cyclist when it was written in 2008, I’m quite certain Bradley Wiggins, Chris Hoy, or even David Millar could challenge for that honor, but for sure Robert Millar had a huge impact as the first Britian to be truly successful in Continental pro cycling.

After reading the book I’m scratching my head about Millar’s character.  He’s either a private loner with a sharp wit or a incessant arse.   It’s hard to say, but I’m leaning more in the ass column.   There is one thing that is left without question, Millar had a single minded, obsessive and all consuming devotion to being a professional cyclist.  And then there is the lagging unanswered question if he’s even still Robert Millar or underwent a sex change is now someone else.

I’ve read lots of bios of cyclists, Paul Kimmage, Joe Parkin, Armstrong, Raisin, Landis, Hamilton, Hinault and LeMond, one thing you’ll come away with is that all of these guys, is that they pretty much devoted their lives to cycling in a way that any “normal” person couldn’t.  There is a quote in this book that goes something like this, “You get a small amount of pleasure from each of the many things you do, I get a large amount of pleasure the one thing I do.”  From an early age their lives become centered on doing everything possible to ride a bike faster then everyone else.

grimpeur_cropAs you turn the pages on Robert Millar’s life you find that he tended to do things his own way and worried little about how others saw him.  One story that set Millar apart from everyone else literally is told early in the book.  Millar was part of traditional Glasgow cycling culture where clubs would hold “drum ups” to recruit new members into their ranks.  Each club had a drum up somewhere and if you wanted to ride with them you showed up.  A fire would be started and riders would congregate.  A Young David Millar would attend these gatherings but distance himself for everyone else and start his own fire.

“In Search of Robert Millar” isn’t as good of a read as “Slaying the Badger,” but that has much more to do with Millar’s character then it does with the writer.  He does painstaking research and talks to just everyone central to Millar’s story other then Millar.  Robert has apparently disappeared which gives some credibility to the rumors that he changed his sex, in fact he never even denies it.  Millar does correspond with the author via email after a great deal of effort to get in touch with him, and the conversation they had forms the last chapter of the book.

“In Search…” is well worth reading if you have interest in what it takes to reach the professional level of cycling or the environment of 80s racing, but there are far more interesting books out there.

About Matt Gholson

Cycling, school teaching, husband.
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