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In Search of Robert Millar by Richard Moore

Release date: 04th June, 2007
Publisher: Harper Sport

List Price: £15.99
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In Search of Robert Millar
By Richard Moore
Harper Sport price: £9.59, saving 40% on rrp

With the Tour de France less than a fortnight away, it seems peculiar that Britain's most successful professional cyclist, the only English-speaking man to win the King of the Mountains title (in the 1984 Tour), is not busy conducting a succession of media interviews prior to the cycling calendar's greatest annual event. Richard Moore quite possibly wrote down a similar sentence before embarking on this intriguing biography, for Robert Millar, the pinch-nosed Scot with a penchant for monosyllabic answers when he was racing, has not been spotted since 2003.

There is speculation that Millar reacted to rumours he had undergone a sex-change operation by deciding to disappear from view altogether, although the occasional flurry of emails to friends suggest he is merely enjoying sunnier climes, quite content with his anonymity. This appears the most likely scenario: after all, it had always been his intention to earn enough money from cycling to rid himself of financial worries for the rest of his days. And why not? Millar was a deep, often radical, thinker who reckoned each Tour took three years off a cyclist's life.

Yet despite not having face-to-face contact with his subject, Moore does a marvellous job of presenting Millar's often contradictory profile. Moore first embarked on his task some years ago, one suspects initially as a labour of love (he's a self-confessed Millar fan), which ensures he has assembled masses of background material; his text is littered with references which puts the main story into context and adds pace and depth to the narrative, making it read like a cracking novel.

Robert Millar's story is a compelling one: a Glaswegian who, when everyone around him was playing football, took up an alien sport and eventually excelled at it through application, determination and an overwhelming desire to succeed. His spectacular performances, particularly at high altitude, earned him respect on the continent, although his feats were never fully appreciated back home.

Not as though Moore's book is revelatory; readers cannot expect to know any more about Millar after reading it, but they will definitely have a clearer understanding of what made him tick. Moreover, given Moore's own passion for the sport, they will certainly enjoy a better appreciation of professional cycling.

Yet it is Millar's contradictory profile which intrigues and puzzles the reader. He sought wealth from a sport in which he would have participated for nothing; he was a vegetarian who would eat meat, although it rarely agreed with his digestive system and he was a Scottish nationalist who refused to live in Scotland.

Above all, Millar was (and as his 'disappearance' proves, probably still is) single-minded; he won three Tour stages in the Pyrenees as well as the Tour of Catalonia, twice finished runner-up in Spain's Vuelta and was second in Italy's Giro. When at his peak in 1990, he also won the Tour de France's dress rehearsal, the Dauphine Libere.

Sports enthusiasts have grown accustomed to former stars being rolled out for the cameras before the start of every major sporting tournament, each spouting their views, good or bad, controversial or lame. The sad irony is that today, Millar could have sustained his earning potential by being more 'media-savvy'. In a way, readers will be pleased this British cycling great has chosen to keep his counsel as it makes his tale even more intriguing.

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