I remember exactly where I was and exactly what I was doing when it happened. It was two years ago. I was in a rental car with Emiliano and Raoul, we were leaving Spain and headed to France for the start of Paris-Roubaix. Emi was driving. The traffic sucked, I was eating Haribo gummy bears. It was approximately 3:30 pm in the afternoon, also, my t-shirt, it smelled like País Vasco. Having just experienced, a few days earlier, a light-watershed moment wherein David Millar publicly admitted to having not only read Manual for Speed but also enjoying the experience, it occurred to us, that’s cool David, but prove it. So we tweeted at him. We offered him a free11Professional, mind you. Portrait Session with Manual for Speed on the eve Roubaix. Something classy, something that befitted a man of his hair type. The kind of product you’d normally only find from a Fancy Studio working out of one of the nicer malls—appointments only. We said David, let’s do it in the front yard near the big white horse at the end of the fountain. We said, what say you? Interested? Do you really like Manual for Speed or were you just bored that day?
He responded immediately, and three hours later we photographed the whole Garmin Roubaix roster, one by one, easy, no sweat, kausual-as-F, like it was something we’d been doing for years. It wasn’t. It was our first time. It was #evenmorewatershed, and it was, ultimately, our first big break.
Dear David, thank you.
Anyway, better yet, it turns out that he’s charming and candid, and most importantly interesting. He’s not just a dumb, hyper-exceptional hunk of an athlete. He’s a complete human being equipped with complexity, contradiction and nuance. Also, he’s funny. Point is, we like him. Which means, of course, we wanted to know more about him. All of this is why we interviewed him and why we published this interview here, now, below this paragraph.
I’m Scottish, that’s for sure, I know this because no matter where I am in the world when I meet Scots I find similarities that could only exist through deeply embedded cultural history and behaviour, e.g. we drink a lot and become great friends yet never need see each other ever again. Scots are weird like that, we’re the most anti-social social people created, very similar to the Irish and Aussies yet so different in that we don’t want to actually live near each other. Saying that, I don’t really know where my home is, Hong Kong and Biarritz were the closest. Now I’m making one in Catalunya. I like it here, it’s relaxed, we renovated a house, I’ve become a gardener, I’d be happy never to move again.
A Lotus Esprit. My Dad had Lotuses, so I liked them. James Bond did too actually, the Roger Moore Bond, it was white and turned into a submarine, that was coolasfuck. Then Maserati, I loved the Ghibli of the 1990’s, mainly because nobody else did and it had hints of a Delorean to it with its boxy shape. I had a Porsche 996 GT3 for a little while, I didn’t crash it, so that was a success. I’ve written off three other cars. Now I’m living my dream, I have a Maserati Ghibli, the modern one though, and a Citroen Berlingo in VCRC club colours, and a Citroen 2CV. I aspire to owning a Cafe Racer motorbike, one day, before that I’ll do motorcross as that’s The Sport in Catalunya and all my friends do it. I don’t want a boat, I grew up with boats, I now have friends with boats.
To be honest I’d been doing some time in some pretty dodgy places as well, those are the dangerous places because you actually feel like you’ve got your shit together compared to the skank around you. Problem was I took that confidence with me, so when I did go back into general society I thought I had my shit together. Monte Carlo exclusive beach situation wasn’t rolling with my derelict style, which was a good thing, made me realise I was the skank. That was a healthy realisation to have, I’d become something I abhorred, there was no more looking down waiting to hit the bottom, I’d been down there long enough to become a bottom feeder, it was time to start looking up again and to stop scaring and worrying the people close to me, including Lance. It was his call to my sister to say he was worried about me that triggered her to call me up and tell me to get my head out of my arse and stop being a fucking loser.
I think I created my own self-fulfilling prophecy. Racing Through The Dark was the fulfillment.
Blackhawk. That would be a cool nickname – in fact Chrisitan Meier came up with that when I said he or Vande Velde needed a nickname so we didn’t have two Christians on the bus confusing everything, he said he’d like to be called Blackhawk, I heard Black Cock. He’s still Black Cock to me, six years later. Millar-Time was good, only because Ryder used it and he said it Ryderstyle, which made it sound cool.“Le Dandy is so French, they should never nickname anybody or anything.”David Millar
Ouf, too much name-calling and slander has been directed at me to mention. In fact I stopped paying attention to it years ago, I realised they were a minority empowered by the internet, in the recent words of a father of one of the GB boys I’m now looking after, “…keyboard warriors are a scourge in all discourse. I’ve often found the majority on any division is silent, rather like the visible verses the invisible dimensions of an iceberg.” It hurts to read what people say, that’s why I stopped reading it. Sadly it stresses my family out as they can’t help but read the stuff, like moths to a flame. Tom Southam wrote a great description of me in an article once, I’ll have to track it down, it was one of the first times I felt somebody had described me in a way that surprised me with it’s accuracy.
I suppose each of us had our id imprinted in the style with which we dispatched our bikes. Mine was very much, “I’m out. Oh wait, I’m still in.”
I would imagine so, according to statistics there should be quite a few gay cyclists. I can’t imagine a sport more suited to it really, pro cyclists are all quite gay in a pro athlete kind of way. The pro peloton would be a great place to be gay, I’d support them for sure, I have a feeling the majority of the peloton would also be supportive. I’d like to think so, maybe that’s my natural naivety (read optimism) shining through.
I think the soil in my garden is too clayey and that we’re going to have dig our well deeper in order to get enough water to irrigate as well as drink and wash. A job, I need a job that pays money, I don’t really have one, I miss having a pay cheque. My oldest child, Archibald, who is four, already speaks three languages and asks me to do the same, this is a concern as he’s better than me already so I speak French to him as he doesn’t speak that, and yet he understands, this is great I know, but I feel bad I’m not good enough for him. I need to read more books, I don’t do that anymore, I prefer gardening.
Are you joking? We could have gone for much more.
- Create a base camp, picnic table, chairs – do this off the road, please.
- Take a picnic, include wine, cool box to hold wine.
- Have a speaker, play recordings of a French radio station commentating on a bike race, doesn’t matter which race or when it was, it’s for the atmosphere, of course if there is a radio station that has commentary listen to this, atmosphere AND information. Although once you’ve begun drinking the wine you won’t care about the information, only atmosphere matters.
- When the race arrives cheer everybody, the guys at the front will be so focused they won’t notice you, the guys in the middle won’t be that bothered, but the guys off the back will be relying on you to lift their morale. Do it for them.
- Don’t think you’re just going to watch bike racers, you’re going to watch a bike race, that’s the difference, make it a day out and don’t stress.
- Which leads me to planning, anticipate road closures and weather conditions, you’ll be stuck out there, better the planning less the stress, in other words: BE PREPARED, you’re not in a stadium, you’re like Bear Grylls out there.
- Wear a cycling cap, your favourite team’s jersey, that sort of thing.
- Go naked if you please, dress up at will, it all adds to the atmos.
- Don’t stand in front of the bike racers.
- Don’t spit.
- Don’t run in front or next to the bike racers, behind is ok.
- Don’t stress.
- Don’t keep asking stupid questions to your fellow fans, bluff if you have to, and if you don’t have a very favourite team or rider make one up, adds to the atmos.
I don’t think many people have a clue, the film people know more than most fans know, they got that into it. The funny thing was, the more they got into it and the more they learnt the more they thought the whole pro cycling world was completely and utterly bonkers. Seeing it through their eyes I began to agree. There was no need to create anything completely erroneous as to be fair they were so blown away about all of it that there was no need to make shit up in order for me to have fun at their expense. The “butthole three times” scenario would have been too easy to make happen…
Maurizio Fondriest, he was my idol, and we were rooming together at one of the races my first year pro (his last it turned out). He asked me how the race went. I said, “I was so bad at the beginning, then towards the end I felt better.”“Maurizio replied, 'Good, doesn’t matter how you are at the beginning, it’s how you are at the end that matters.' There’s a life lesson there.”David Millar
I do wear one of those surf shirt things, itchyscratchything? What are they called? I should know that, I lived in Biarritz for seven years for god’s sake, mind you, I didn’t surf once. L’Oreal do this spray on stuff, it’s clear, alcohol based. Nothing less than 30SPF, spray that shit on, don’t touch it and let the alcohol evaporate. It creates almost a second skin. That was the only thing that worked, could last a seven hour mountain stage in the Tour de France, I tried EVERYTHING else, nothing else could last, only when they came out with that stuff was I saved. Downside of being a vampire.
When you’re younger style doesn’t require money, the older you get the more expensive it becomes. Beautiful clothes cost money, and then there’s the upkeep, they have to be washed differently, hung properly, packed carefully, it’s a pain, but I suppose that’s the way it should be, you learn to look after your stuff, like the olden days, I mean, how the hell did guys in the American West wear suits and hats? They must have had to be so careful, place was dirty, and they didn’t have good washing facilities. I think about that sort of thing.
It does, but Egg Man had already set the tone, they were going full Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. They were mind-bending the hip hop universe.
I miss my team, the camaraderie. I miss the races where I was at the front actually racing, making decisions, attacking, I loved that more than anything. I miss the days I knew I was going fast in a TT, they were special, being in that place of flow.
I once heard a guy ask me what was French for baguette. FACT. Brave New World, the lingua franca of the peloton used to be French, now it’s English, not so sure that’s a good thing.
In hindsight, because I didn’t realise it at the time, my final TdF stage win, and my final win. Friday 13th July 2012 on the anniversary of Tommy Simpson’s death. I think a part of me let go that day, I was never the same as a bike racer again.
2004, reigning World Champion and to the outside world at the top of my game, yet knowing I’d cheated and hating myself for it, it didn’t matter I’d cleaned up my act and vowed never to dope again, it was too late. Fortunately I was caught which enabled me to admit to everything and wipe the slate clean. So it was a low point which began the process that would lead to my high point eight years later.
“Be kind, it helps everyone.”David Millar
When we told David that we were publishing this interview on Manual for Speed Dot Com today, he emailed us back and said:
>> How is it? Totally random one, I’m friends with the aristocratic
>> Wakefields from North England. You guys should meet…
>> Back to business, are you running that interview today? If so crazy
>> coincidence as we’re launching my online TT training course today so it
>> would be fabulous if you could link to it?
Of course we could, David.
“David Millar is one of the most successful Time Trialists in the history of cycling. He has recently condensed his system for success into “The David Millar TT system”, a system which brought him to the peak of the world cycling order. He breaks this down into five key elements and describes how these can be implemented for success by the everyday cyclist. Click here to sign up to the free 4-Part Video Training Series where David reveals his 5-Point Time Trial System.”