The best stories involving cyclists go well beyond their on-bike exploits. While we marvel at our heroes as they climb never-ending climbs or win death-defying sprints at speeds that would make us want to buckle up while traveling in our cars, it’s usually the story taking place off the bike that often becomes far more compelling in the years after they’ve climbed off their bikes for good.
This is very much the case with the enigmatic Scot, Robert Millar. In the 80s and early 90s, Millar emerged from the rough neighborhoods of Glasgow to become one of the most dominant climbers of his era, and arguably one of the top ten climbers of all time. Excelling in week-long stage races, Millar also took three mountain stages in over ten Tours de France, also winning the 1984 King of the Mountains Classification. His successes garnered him adulation in the UK and across Europe – attention that was less than well-received by Millar.
Often giving curt, even rude responses to journalists and fans throughout his career, Millar developed a reputation as the peloton’s resident asshole throughout his career. But as the few teammates and coaches that knew him best would tell you, this gruff exterior was a cover for an intensely sensitive and insecure individual. Throughout the book, Moore notes just how frequently the term special is applied to Robert Millar. Sure, he was special on the bike, but he was special in how he behaved, treated friends and family, and how he seemingly viewed the world as a cold, dishonest place. In the cutthroat, business-first world of professional cycling, is conclusion was certainly based on the reality he lived for over fifteen years.
After his retirement in the early 90s, Millar wrote for cycling publications and stayed within the public eye for a few years. When a tabloid news publication ran a story on Millar possibly going through a gender transition, Millar, always loath to be too much in the public, disappeared completely, leaving his family and home not to be seen or heard from in any meaningful way in over ten years. Indeed, Richard Moore tells in his book how difficult it was to just exchange emails with Millar, through a third-party, to write this book.
After writing columns sporadically for cyclingnews.com over the years, Millar finally went public about undergoing hormone therapy treatment and beginning a new life as Philippa York. York is still impossible to locate, although it appears she will take a larger role in race analysis at cyclingnews.com in 2018. If anything is to be learned from one of the greatest English-speaking racers of all time, it’s that as perilous and difficult a road it can be in the professional peloton, the personal, often private trials of everyday life can prove even more trying of one’s character.