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.
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