David Millar Interview: Garmin-Cervélo rider speaks about his autobiography
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Friday, June 3, 2011

David Millar Interview: Garmin-Cervélo rider speaks about his autobiography

by Shane Stokes at 11:05 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
Scottish rider documents his rise, fall and rise again in new book

David MillarWith the Spring Classics a fading memory, the Tour de France fast approaching and general interest in cycling building towards its annual peak, the yearly release of big cycling titles is once again occurring around this time. Richard Moore’s Slaying the Badger and Ned Boulting’s How I Won the Yellow Jumper have just been released to very positive reviews; more publications are on the way, and will give ample reading material to bicycling bookworms out there.

One which has attracted a lot of pre-launch interest is an autobiography written by one of cycling’s best known riders, David Millar. Entitled Racing Through the Dark, the book has been penned by Millar rather than a ghostwriter, with the Scot insisting on putting it together himself instead of resorting to the simpler option favoured by many other pros .

Whilst he was guided by journalist and author Jeremy Whittle, he said that writing his own book was an essential part of the process, and one which was ultimately very rewarding.

The bones of Millar’s story are already well known to many. Pro at 20, Tour de France stage winner by 23, world championship time trial success by 26, arrest and two year ban by 27. He returned and reformed in 2006, starting his second career then, and has developed a successful palmares and solid reputation in the years since.

His latest Grand Tour campaign was a successful one, with the 2011 Giro d’Italia bringing a period of time in the Maglia Rosa, as well as a stage victory on the final day of racing. He’ll aim to keep that high level heading into the Tour de France, where he hopes that more big results follow.

In the following interview Millar speaks about his racing career and the writing process, also discussing doping in cycling, Garmin-Cervélo’s philosophies plus his plans for the future.


VeloNation: David, your autobiography Racing Through The Dark is coming out later this month. Can you tell us a little more about what to expect?

David Millar: Well, it’s facts from my life, what I’ve been through. It’s an optimistic book but it’s also quite dark and goes into the not so pleasant history, my history with cycling.

But I didn’t want it to be this classic depressing book…I wanted it to ultimately be optimistic. I hope I have achieved that, I think I’ve achieved that. So, I hope it is an eye opener…not just about me, but also about the professional cycling world.

VN: Is there humour, too? The blogs that you have done in the past have been quite funny in parts…

DM: In places, I’d like to think it is. I don’t know. It’s nothing like any of my blogs or anything, I realised as soon as I started writing it, I was like ‘ooo, this is quite different.’ By the time I got to the end of it I realised my writing changed so much through it. Jeremy Whittle was mentoring me through it the whole way and advising me and telling me where to expand and then editing down bits. So he kind of helped me, more in relation to my writing style.

When I looked back at the first stuff I’ve written, my blogs and diaries, my writing then is completely different than what’s in the book. It’s been a very steep learning curve.

VN: Have you enjoyed the process?

DM: Yes, I did very much enjoy it. That said, it is like anything, when I had to relive the bits when I wasn’t enjoying myself, it wasn’t enjoyable to write.

When you are writing about yourself, it is much easier to write about the parts of your life that were easy for you to go through; the other stuff is much more difficult. Luckily, in the grand scheme of things it was a fairly small period of my life. It’s very good now and it was good before that.

VN: Some guys have ghost writers and they write the book for them…

DM: Yes, every single other cyclist is going to have their book completely ghost written. Most of sportsmen are the same. That was one of my biggest things about this - I was going to write it myself.

VN: So, has Jeremy Whittle’s input been more of a guiding hand?

DM: Yeah, he’s been a mentor. And he’s helped editing. He’s really been almost directing me through it, and helping me in areas.

I wouldn’t have been able to do it without him…he’s basically been my editor and teacher, and above all a mentor. It’s been a great experience.

VN: Is writing something you would like to do more of in the future?

DM: Not when I’m cycling.. I’m never gonna writing anything again, not even a blog, while I ride the bike (laughs). I’m on a break. No, no, when I retire from cycling, yeah I think I’d like to. I did enjoy it. I’ve always loved reading books and to actually then to be able to prove to myself that I can write something that I hope other people will agree is well written…that will be a big achievement.

David MillarVN: Its it looking at your personal story only, is it going to ruffle some feathers as well?

DM: No, I don’t think it’s going to ruffle anybody’s feathers about my life - everything has been so exposed about my life. I think it’s made it, in a way, easier, in that it’s not an expose. There’s nothing in it that’s going to shock people. Apart from my personal experiences.

What’s amazing is a lot of people may judge me, and think they know me and have their opinions of me, which they have a right to, but they actually don’t know anything about me. Even when they read the book, what amazing is they still don’t know anything about me. There’s so much of my life that’s not in it.

I find that fascinating actually. When I’ve read books in the past, you finish them and you think – oh I know that person, but actually you still don’t know them. You don’t really know anybody, ever.

I suppose in a way that was quite a startling experience. Not the actually writing of a story but realising that nobody knows me, nobody can really ever judge me. That’s quite nice.

VN: Did you discover stuff about yourself writing it?

DM: Not really new stuff. But it was a fascinating experience and you actually are forced to remember everything and compile and speak to people that have been close to for so long, stuff you’d never relive again. And I think it’s just a fascinating experience. You rediscover your life again.

Also, even simple things like compiling photos from your whole life – that’s something I’d never have done otherwise. It’s like I’ve rediscovered my life. So, yeah, I think it’s a good thing to have. I think it’s helped me.

VN: You’ve mentioned here about your journey starting off good, then the dark period, then things being good again. Does that mirror the sport’s progress in recent years, and do you think cycling is in a much better place now?

DM: Yeah, I think so. I think the situation in sport at the moment is not quite representative of me, but in the big picture it is quite representative in that it did go pretty dark, but has then pulled itself out massively. I do say repeatedly that a decade ago, cycling has a fundamental doping culture, but now we have a fundamental anti-doping culture. We have doping problems and we still have dopers, but the culture as a whole is anti doping. That’s light years away from where it was even a few years ago.

VN: There’s still some stuff cropping up, such as the Mantova investigation…

DM: Yes, and those situations have to keep cropping up. I hope that they don’t ever stop cropping up. The moment people get complacent and the police stop investigating, then people think they can get away with it. Unfortunately, a lot of older people working in professional cycling have doping history, and have a very negative, backwards idea about how our sport works. They are not going to go away for a few years yet, and so I think we can’t forget that. Investigations have to keep going, we have to keep catching people. That is part of the sport.

VN: There’s been suggestions of severe bans for team managers and doctors…what do you think?

DM: I have been saying that since day one. The buck stops with team managers. How can teams get away with their riders having repeated doping cases, and yet keep turning up at races? For me, I find that absolutely disgusting. I think it is so stupid that a team can just keep racing, keep bringing in new riders, sign any rider they want with no responsibility. There’s no ultimate consequences to them taking a big risk on someone they know is doping, but who could also get them a big result. If that guy does dope, what then happens to the guy who signed him? Nothing.

That’s something I have been saying for six years. That’s something that we tried to instil in our team, we wanted to show that we have that responsibility. When JV and I started the team up, we didn’t want to eradicate the past. We wanted to show we would take responsibility, we wanted people to understand that we know what this sport has been through and what it is, but also that we want to be proactive in the fight. That is the way it has to be.

David MillarVN: How many more years will you race?

DM: I will go as many as I can, I will go as many as my body will allow. I love it, I don’t want to stop, that is for sure. The day I stop will be a sad day for me. I would like to keep racing until I am getting my head kicked in so badly that it really just isn’t enjoyable.

VN: Do you find that a toll has been taken on your body over the past year?

DM: Well, if I am living properly and getting my training done and everything, I am strong as I have ever been. I’ve never felt as physically strong as I did as at the end of last year. I was just enjoying it, it was a joy – it was something very few people get to experience, and I hope to be able to repeat it again.

I will do it for a few more years, there is no reason not to, I think.

VN: Speaking of that form, did you get a bigger kick out of the worlds, or the Commonwealth Games?

DM: Eh…all of those. They are all completely different experiences, the worlds, the Commonwealths, Chrono des Nations. The worlds was just great to be in the race, to be right back at the top of my game, when I had been targeting that specifically, and then to be actually going head to head with the best. It was for the GB team as well, because they have all supported me so much.

That was a really lovely and pleasant experience. The Commonwealth Games was obviously special to Scotland…that was a more personal emotional experience. Then the Chrono des Nations was… I’ve never enjoyed doing a time trial so much in my life. I had partied after Delhi, I hadn’t ridden my bike in three days and then I just turned up there and was literally as strong as I have ever been in my life. I was just loving every second of that course.

That was one of those pure moments of grace, I think. I remember being on my bike and going around and thinking, ‘okay, I have got to remember this moment, as I am only going to get this a handful of times in the rest of my career.’ So that was an epiphany moment.

Anyway, about the book: it is going to be a bit different to what people expect. It is very rapid, it is highly readable. We have not tried to make it too deep or clever, we just made it very highly readable. Hopefully it works….


Racing Through the Dark will be released on June 16th.


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