By any measure it’s an unusual story; hard man, Robert Millar the Tour de France ‘King of the Mountains’ in 1984, second overall twice in the Vuelta, second in the Giro and fourth overall in the Tour de France transitions into female Philippa York.
A factor in the story which intrigued me was that the lady who was Robert’s partner and the mother of his daughter, is still Philippa’s partner: Linda Ann.
We asked Linda Ann if she’d like to do an interview with us and she kindly consented.
Tell us about life ‘BR’- ‘Before Robert’ and your adventures in Environmental Health – what do you do these days?
“Life BR mostly involved cars & motorbikes. I had a series of dodgy cars, my first was a Triumph Spitfire 1500 (with the all-important overdrive) it looked great until I nudged a wall and the boot fell out.
“My penchant for Alfa Romeos led to a ‘Sud’ and GTV, I still hanker after them.
“Italian’s always have the edge on style, (De Rosa/Campagnolo/Bianchi) I also had a Moto Guzzi Monza 500 motorbike and a Benelli 250 motorbike which was interestingly unreliable.
“Pippa has a Ducati 900 super light motorbike, it’s beautiful, like Sophia Loren.
“I worked in Environmental Health for 27 years, my field was housing; Environmental Health is rarely boring.
“There was a guy who hoarded tinned food, (wall to wall) he was preparing for a nuclear strike, the Council where I worked had a bunker, there were all sorts down there but nowhere near to his stash of tinned fruit and corned beef.
“One time we had a complaint of loud ‘growling’ noises on a dodgy housing estate, it seemed the tenant’s had done a moonlight flit, leaving a very disgruntled alligator behind, that was quite a shock.
“Pippa loved hearing my tales, one favourite was about this chap who had a moose head mounted on his wall (Fawlty Towers) he had fitted red light bulbs into the eye sockets, quite bizarre!
“I have worked for the Fire Service for some time now, it’s a great job which I would recommend as a career to anyone.”
Were you ‘into’ cycling before you met Robert?
“My ex-boyfriend won a cycling medal at Butlin’s Youth International, he introduced me to the Tour de France; like me he was of Irish descent, so we cheered Roche and Kelly; however Robert Millar caught my eye, I thought he looked ‘wild’, I liked his waspish attitude.
“Back then, hardly any girls rode, so I was considered ‘quirky’ by the villagers, unlike today with many more women involved in Cycling.
“Pippa has finally got me into clipless pedals, I hate them – we don’t ride the bike together, it’s not so much struggling to keep up as nagging me for cross chaining or mashing a high gear.”
How did you meet Robert?
“A fleeting moment in the doorway of the Holiday Inn in Birmingham in 1990 (Kellogg’s), I asked him to autograph my cycling magazine, (which I still have, also signed by Stephen Roche).
“I ought to thank Stephen’s Uncle Tom.
“He was watching the race, we got talking and he said he was Stephen Roche’s uncle, and invited me to meet him after the race at the hotel. Intrigued, I went along and for sure he was.”
I’ve seen pictures of you at the Tour, did you go to a lot of races when Robert was a professional rider?
“I used to go to a fair few as I enjoyed travelling.
“I usually ended up in weird places, so I had learned a splattering of languages.
“I was once in Valentine St Menet on Valentine’s day, hanging around at a bike race, it must have been love!
“I enjoyed the mystery tour on the TVM team bus one time in Italy, where were they going to?
“Who had the map book, oh well…
“Sometimes I travelled with Sporting Tours, once I shared a room with Serena Rayner Meakin – she’s a lovely person, I recall hearing on the car radio that her husband, Dave had been killed, l was driving to Stratford upon Avon on a very wet, hideous day, it was awful – at the Liege-Bastogne-Liege Classic, so I was delighted to catch up with her again at the Rouleur ‘do’ last year, and so glad that she had found happiness again.
“One time on the Tour de France, the bus driver did not understand the Gendarme at the base of Alpe D’Huez, he thought he could not drive up, so everyone started walking.
“I was wearing cheap flip flops.
“By the time we had reached the ski lift station the sky had turned black.
“I climbed in the cable car with some American girls, halfway up the car stopped, lightning pinging around us then it started again but the ‘adventure’ didn’t end there; one of the girl’s rain mac got caught in the cable car door, we were shrieking ‘take it off’ thankfully she did and up and away it went.
“One final memory of that day was that almost everyone had food poisoning on the bus on the way back down; the memory of my urgent and frequent visits to that reeking bus dunny still turns my stomach to this day.”
You told me to mention the Kellogg’s Tour 1990 to you…
“Ah yes – I worked on Kellogg’s Tour.
“In the evenings, I got to chill out with various teams if they were staying in the same hotel.
“One time I was playing cards and drinking good vodka with Abdu [Uzbekistan rider Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, ed.] and a couple of his team mates. Unfortunately I ended up spending half an hour in their wardrobe when the Team Manager came knocking at the door; the guys panicked and bundled me into the wardrobe with the Vodka making ‘shusssssh’ gestures.
“I had some good laughs driving on the Kellogg’s Tour with the Irish guys who worked with the McQuaids.”
Did you ever ‘tie the knot’?
“Just once – but not with Robert! – the whole ridiculous meringue dress set up, as expected.
“I chose the first dress I tried on, then spent hours trying on pairs of Levi’s.
“Just before I said ‘I do’ I thought what a laugh to it would be to say, “actually, I don’t” then running down the aisle laughing maniacally, tossing my bouquet into the air.
“Pippa would expect that of me as I change my mind so often.”
You have a daughter together?
“Indeed we do.
“As a child she was a skilful cyclist.
“What made us chuckle was the way she stood up, and danced on the pedals.
“When she was about six years-old we took her to a mountain bike race, there was also a kids ‘fun’ track.
“We told her to warm up a bit so she set off across the field in hot pursuit of some ‘grown up’ cyclists, she didn’t hear us shouting to come back, so we had to ask a friend to go after her on his bike, by which time she was on a tricky descent on the senior route, pedalling furiously.
“Pippa believes she would have made it as a pro rider, she is fiercely competitive, but she didn’t fancy a life of Lycra and eau de wintergreen.”
When did Robert first discuss transitioning, was it a shock?
“I can’t describe how I felt so let me turn that question round and ask the reader, anything you think you might have felt had it been you then, I probably did.”