Portrait: David Millar

A little over a year since retirement, David Millar says he is finally gaining traction in his life as an ex-bike racer.
In the last 12 months, he has published a well-received book, released a clothing range, also well received, teamed up with Mallorca’s exclusive Jumeirah Port Soller hotel and gained plaudits for his television work.
The only “flak” he has encountered, to use his description, has been for his role as mentor to the young men British Cycling hope will succeed Wiggins and co in track endurance events.
When I ask if he was surprised by the strength of the reaction, he says, “Oh no, I’m used to that. It’s been 12 years of flak.”
He refers to the time elapsed since his arrest in Biarritz for possession of EPO and subsequent two-year ban. An outspoken, ten-year campaign for clean sport since returning in 2006 still cuts little ice with some.
“I always say, if the internet didn’t exist, or social media didn’t exist, I’d never know, because no one says it to my face. Fortunately, the people who come and talk to me want to say something nice.”
It’s a rare moment of despondency in an otherwise upbeat interview, and swiftly dispelled by talk of the riders he his helping. Millar has visited the team at their base in the Brescian town of Montichiari, a location blessed with mountains, a thriving racing scene, and a velodrome.
“There a lovely bunch of guys,” he says, enthused. “I don’t know if it’s just a good wave, but I think I’m quite lucky that they’re such a good bunch to work with.
“What’s interesting, because I did my research on each of them, is that they’re all born between 1995 and 1997. My last year as a junior was 1995. My first year in France was 1996, my only amateur year, and in 1997, I turned pro. It really is full circle. They were born when I was going through exactly what they were going through right now. There’s something quite lovely about that.”

Millar is keenly aware that his appointment to such a sensitive role has not pleased everyone, but he is determined to pass on the benefits of his experience, good and bad.
“I hope they can learn from the things I did right, and also from the things I did wrong. One side, I want to prevent them from doing, but there’s another side that I’d like them to replicate. It’s a powerful message. They respect that, I think.”
Millar has found respect elsewhere, too: sitting on working groups for the Extreme Weather Protocol, used for the first time at Paris-Nice, and a committee formed to consider how accidents in the convoy might be reduced.
We met around the same time last year and at the same function: a ride staged by Maserati Cycling to promote its sponsorship of the Tour de Yorkshire Ride, a sportive to be held on Sunday May 1, 2016 – the third day of the Tour de Yorkshire.
Today, Millar rides out with journalists and guests of Maserati from a country hotel a short distance from Scarborough, offering his accomplices a time to aim at on one of the Tour de Yorkshire Ride’s more testing climbs, before returning for lunch and interviews.
“I think the easiest way to describe it as that I’ve got traction now, whereas last year I didn’t,” he reflects.
“It was fairly up and down, left and right; all over the place, to be honest. Now I’ve settled into the fact that I’m not a pro bike racer and I’m starting to have other jobs and there are other things going on. Things are beginning to look more long term.”
The adjustment from elite athlete to the comparative mundanity of retirement can be difficult to make. Millar appears to have handled the transition with customary style, even if his mentoring role with British Cycling has not met with universal approval.
’Twas ever thus for such a charismatic and often divisive character. Millar in retirement is proving every bit as interesting as Millar the racer.
David Millar is an ambassador for Maserati Cycling, sponsors of The Tour de Yorkshire Ride

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