Words: Ian Cleverly
I was just about finished with my piece on David Millar for the next Rouleur when things changed dramatically. The subject of my 3,500 words was on the attack at the Giro and in imminent danger of riding himself into the maglia rosa, making him the first Briton to have taken leader’s jerseys in all three Grand Tours. This would be an historic occasion. It would also require a major re-write to the end of the feature. Damn.
As we now know, Millar’s feat understandably paled into insignificance with the news that Wouter Weylandt had crashed on the Passo del Bocco and died immediately. I never had the pleasure of meeting Wouter, and feel enough has been said and written by those who have without my input. The picture I have formed is one of a determined, fun-loving, all round good guy – as are the overwhelming majority of professional cyclists I have met.
Interviewing Millar in Switzerland before the Tour of Romandie, I formed a similar opinion. We all have our preconceptions of famous people’s characters from TV soundbites and magazine interviews, yet rarely do they match the reality. Some have the gift of being utterly charming, both on and off-camera (step forward, Sir Chris Hoy). Others know how to turn it on. And some struggle to portray their true selves; are uncomfortable in the spotlight; fail to find the words to adequately express their feelings. And why shouldn’t they? Cycling’s stars are just like you and I, after all.
I had pigeonholed Millar in the latter category, based on nothing in particular – just an overall impression. A bright guy but potentially spiky, I thought, who would rather be anywhere else than talking to some cynical old journo for two hours over a coffee. I was wholly wrong, and happy to admit it.
What should have been David Millar’s great day in pink on the road to Livorno was washed away as the peloton paid tribute to Weylandt. Yet by his dignified and respectful leading of the day’s proceedings, Millar did the maglia rosa and the profession of cycling a great service. Long may he continue to do so.
A sad day for cycling in many respects, yet a moving and uplifting one at the same time.