Wednesday, July 28, 2021
HomeOtherEditorialRobert Millar - Let's give the guy his dignity

Robert Millar – Let’s give the guy his dignity


“Elusive cyclist (Robert Miller) is rediscovered as ‘queen of the mountains’ “- so says the headline in the Sunday paper, The Star? The News of the World? The Sport? No, it’s our “quality-read” for the sabbath – the Scotland on Sunday.

Whilst George Best drank himself to death, and as “Hurricane” Higgins trots down the same trail, many of the gentlemen of the press struggle to conceal their admiration for these ‘lads’.

Drinking, womanising, brawling, gambling, gamesmanship – all the activities that proper sportsmen should engage in. Robert and his six hour stages in the rain, through the Pyrenees? Surely if you take enough drugs, practically anyone could manage that?

Robert Millar
Robert showing off his Tour de France KOM jersey in the Glasgow Kellogs City Centre crit, 1984.

But is this story, about one of the country’s sporting greats, even true? The last time the press ‘doorstepped” Millar about his sexuality, within weeks he was out advising the Scottish Commonwealth Games squad at Manchester. The trademark, long hair was there, but that was all.

Having spent a lot of my life working on building sites, this kind of story is good for ribald banter. But when it’s one of your few heroes (his picture still graces my wall) who is the subject matter then it’s no longer quite so funny.

If it is true, then it’s hard to take-in, leaving you sad and confused. That’s on the outside, looking-in, how must Millar feel?

But that was one of his strengths – he never did care much what people thought of him.

He ploughed the “lone furrow” of cliche. Journalists, team directors, fans – if Robert didn’t want to talk, then that was that.

The ‘queen’ headline isn’t even original, it’s pinched from Saturday’s Mail – always a bastion of open-mindedness and middle-of-the-road journalism. The Mail’s attention to detail is so thorough that the picture they run – of Millar in his Panasonic days – is back to front.

As a fan of the the man, you had to be capable of divorcing the personality from the athlete; tales of his obnoxious and anti-social behaviour are legion.

But Millar the cyclist has no peer in the history of British competition in bicycle stage races. Whilst Tom Simpson is undisputed king of British bike racing – Milan-San Remo, Flanders, the Worlds and Lombardy; the Harworth man’s palmares in multi-stage events are far less sparkling than Millar’s.

As well as Millar’s unparalleled Tour record, with a highest placing of fourth and a win in the mountains competition, he was second twice in the Vuelta and second in the Giro.

Robert Millar
Robert flat-out: climbing in the Tour of Britain prologue in Dundee.

The recent fuss surrounding Moureau’s win in the Dauphine made me smile; imagine what it would be like if David Miller won it? That’s exactly what the waif-like man from Glasgow did in 1990 – and I don’t remember nearly as much media excitement.

But then, he didn’t do ‘media friendly’, or predictions – he just went out and rode until he was wasted – or he won.

In Scotland we have few-enough sporting heroes, shouldn’t we show a little mercy? respect? – call it what you will, in a situation like this?

I spoke to someone who knows a little about this type of situation; their take was that a person’s sexuality is what is within them – what they feel, and have probably always felt.

A sex-change is a physical, not a pyschological thing; the conflicts within the man must have been terrible – again, assuming the story is true.

Millar was never a man who sought-out the press or craved headlines, personally I can’t see how this story is in the public interest.

It’s his life, he’s not acting in a hypocritical fashion, he just wants to be left in peace.

I understand that bad news sells newspapers, but if we have to print the story, can’t we ditch the tacky headlines and get some expert opinions? But maybe that would be too much like hard work.

Will I still keep his picture on my wall, will I still remember when he dropped Delgado to win at Superbagneres in 1989?

Damn right!

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Jason MacIntyre

British 25 Mile Time Trial Champion, Jason Macintyre (Edge RT) died this afternoon, after being involved in a collision at 13.34 GMT with a Highland Council truck which is believed to have turned left across his path as it entered the council yard on the northern outskirts of Jason's home town of Fort William. The 34 year-old multiple Scottish champion was returning from a training run in the Spean Bridge area when the tragedy occured at a spot known locally as Carr's corner on the A82 road.

Phil Young – A Tribute

I didn't make it up to the Phil Young memorial race this year, work got in the way. I need to get my values sorted out. I should put the memory of a friend before commercial activity, but when you are under client pressure to get a job finished, it is difficult. Phil had his priorities right, though: "the bike" was number one, and everything else was organised around that.

Jocky Wilson, RIP … and Cav’s Weight

I know we're a hard-core bike racing site, but bear with me - Scotland doesn't produce too many world champions - and of those, none I can think of ever came from Kirkcaldy. Jocky Wilson was a legend and to hear of his death made me very sad - believe it or not, I always wanted to interview the man from the 'China Town' area of Kirkcaldy.

Norrie Drummond – A Hard Man in Belgium

It's just under two weeks now until the 2007 European season starts with the GP d'Ouverture La Marseillaise in the south of France on February 6th. The first major tests come a few weeks later though, on the first weekend in March, far from the Mediterranean, to the north, in Flanders. Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne are true classics in all but UCI category, albeit shorter than the Tour of Flanders with which they share many kilometres of parcours.

At Random

World Road Championships 2006 – Day 4: Espoirs Road Race – Gerald Ciolek

I was up before the bells, showered, washing done and on the street. Even at 08. 00 it's buzzing.The first rider I saw was from Brazil, then the Russian team - looking good in their Itera kit on white carbon Looks. 177 riders from all over the globe; 47 nations. I just saw the Mexicans sign-on, but Gerald Ciolek is the favourite...

Fan lessons 101: The Lance Armstrong situation, Heroes, Heroism and Amorality

I was chatting to a friend the other day who expressed how sad he was about the whole Lance Armstrong situation; I think that is something we can all agree on... Heroes, Heroism and Amorality. Then later in the conversation he went on to say how he hoped Sky were clean, thus setting himself up for more potential sadness and disappointment.

Le Tour de France 2013 – Stage 12: Fougères > Tours, 218km. Kittel’s Third Win!

We left Fougères this morning and Martin summed it up best; ‘normally you’d have expected Cav to be all but unbeatable in those circumstances.’ I felt the same, especially with Tony Martin winning the chrono, QuickStep morale being sky high and Cav being desperate to make amends after his brush with Veelers the other day.

Santini announce Trek-Segafredo Fluoro Training Kit

Road safety has always been a huge focus for the Trek-Segafredo team. This very topical subject is pertinent to both pros in training and the many other regular cyclists that hit the roads every day. Santini is, as ever, extremely conscious of their needs. So, for the men’s and women’s teams, the Italian company has created a range of Trek-Segafredo fluoro training kit designed to increase cyclists’ visibility to others on the road by 300%.

All To Play For

Talking to people who had been to the start in Holland and the stages through Belgium and Germany it was a great success which attracted bigger crowds than expected, if they could only have moved the Spanish weather there it would have been perfect.

Dan Fleeman – Sprinting to the Win in the Rutland – Melton International CiCLE Classic!

Alejandro Valverde winning his fourth Doyenne as last Sunday’s hi-lite? Well, we were expecting that – the Movistar Spaniard and Sky’s Polish flyer Kwiatkowski were ‘super favourites’ and delivered two of the three podium places. But what we weren’t expecting was the phone call from VeloVeritas soothe sayer and mentor, Viktor on Sunday evening; ‘your man Dan Fleeman’s just won The Rutland!’ Now, that was a surprise!