From the blog of Rouleur illustrator and t-shirt designer to the stars, Richard Mitchelson…
Archive for August, 2010
When Peter Carr floated the idea of a documentary to Granada TV following Robert Millar’s 1985 season, it was, no doubt, an attractive proposition. The previous year, the Glaswegian had not only enjoyed the best ever performance by a British rider in the Tour de France, finishing fourth in Paris, but had won the King of the Mountains competition – the first and (so far) only Brit to capture a Tour jersey competition.
What Carr got, however, was a very different film from the expected onwards-and-upwards trajectory expected of the then 26-year-old Millar as the 1985 season unfolded in a spectacularly and increasingly acrimonious fashion.
Winning the Volta a Catalunya in May had set Millar up well for the Vuelta and victory looked assured until, on the penultimate stage, a combination of a puncture, Spanish coalitions and downright incompetence by the Peugeot management lost him the race to Pedro Delgado.
And Millar doesn’t hold back in pointing the finger of blame. The normally taciturn Scot opens up to Carr about the divisions splitting the Peugeot team, French riders refusing to support their English-speaking colleagues.
A poor Tour performance that year was something of a formality under the circumstances, with just Sean Yates and Allen Peiper prepared to work for Millar. Peiper receives almost as much camera time as the film’s subject, his forthright Aussie manner pulling no punches alongside Millar’s marginally more reserved outlook.
It’s a fascinating documentary that, theoretically, should have had a happy ending, but history dictated otherwise. Sporting success stories are ten-a-penny. Sometimes it’s good to see the other side of the coin.
Get your copy here.
He tells me easiest way for him to tell if a frame is a Ron Cooper is by the shape of the rake of the fork blades. “It’s a gradual ascending curve which starts on the dropout and goes a third of the way up, in a perfect curve: no bumps, no flats, just a perfect curve. How’s it done? With great difficulty!” – Jack Thurston with Ron Cooper
While the shots of great champions like Engers and Burton may be familiar, it is the lesser-knowns that catch the eye: the young man rounding a marshal on his Holdsworth, the carcass of an Ever Ready rear lamp attached to his chainstay, temporarily emptied for the duration of the race; an old woman, the like of whom has not been seen in this country since Ena Sharples exited Coronation Street, clutching a bundle of newspapers as a rider speeds by; timekeepers holding stopwatches the size of their palms – Ian Cleverly on Bernard Thompson
He was, without question, the last true patron, ie boss, of the peloton. Eddy Merckx, quite his equal in achievement, it goes without saying, was really too private for such a role – and it’s not a role you choose, rather one that chooses you, if you’re worthy. That he was undisputed patron is largely because of his temperament and manner. He was capable of saying ‘today I win’ and delivering, and he generally won in flamboyant style – Graeme Fife on Bernard Hinault
At home Jan had been accustomed to living – and to winning – pretty well as he pleased. He was National Champion, by some considerable distance the best junior in the Czech Republic. Here, however, he is discovering a new kind of cycling. This is Italy, where cycling matters a great deal and the racers number in the tens of thousands, not just a few dozen. Jan is a teenager riding an under-23 programme and, in the face of the bullying strength of riders often four years his senior, his raw talent is not remotely enough – Herbie Sykes on Jan Hirt
The groups of riders are arranged into sections and marched from workshop, to track, to bikestore, to gym and to lunch, it seems somewhat regimented and military to the outsider, but the riders seem to accept that it’s a tried and tested formula, as Chris Hoy explained, “It’s almost military in the way they do it. You’re just one tiny little piece of the jigsaw when you’re out there as an athlete. Step on to the same programme – it’s very structured and ordered – Guy Andrews on Keirin racing
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