Racing through the Dark – The Fall and Rise of David Millar, a book review of sorts . . .

I’ve started reading the book on holiday, as reading is a great way to relax away from the my world which is spent sitting in front of a screen. The touch of the paper, the weight of the book feels refreshing and real, & 60 pages into the book so is the story.


I’ve included this fantastic image of David at the 2010 Tour of Flanders as for one it’s a gret shot, and two it seems to capture the New Millar better than most. Copyright Jered Gruber/Smashred.

I’ve always found Millar interesting and have always taken an interest in his career, well his professional one, as the years before that where a mystery to me and only ever knew about what had been printed in the press. Why, well I’ve never taken a huge interest in domestic racing as maybe for the same reasons Millar wanted to be a Pro, the bright lights of the International circuit always looked better from my point of view. The reality is that my lack of understanding of the dosmetic scene has probably robbed me from some time watching local races that actually can be amazingly real, earthy, and maybe the real heart of the sport.

I’ve sat on the fence with Millar (while at some times I’ve been on either side of it!), although after the drugs bust I came toppling off. To me this was a greater blow than the whole Festina affair in ’98 (I knew the peloton was dirty back then). The reason why, because he was British had long been lauded as the ‘next generation’ and a hope for fans everywhere that racing at the highest level could be done ‘clean’. Maybe I was as naive as David when he found himself exposed to the world of ‘recovery’ and the slippery slope that eventually led to being ‘prepared’ for races.

Somebody (far wiser than me) said that you can only change the system from within & not from the outside. Can David make big changes? Probably not, but just like the ripples of a stone cast into a pond, eventually they reach the edge. But because this is a shared vision with other big hitters within the industry it can change, Garmin is the proof is the proof of this. My only question that I’ve asked JV (on twitter, not the best forum I know) is what are you guys doing to compete on the same stage as the dopers. I appreciate in the age of competitiveness they may not want to fully reveal their methods but somehow this feels as part of omertà as the doping culture they are trying not to be involved in. Showing other teams there is another door to open, a route to travel is just as much a part of the anti doping fight as not using the practices.

With David I’ve been unfair in judging him without knowing the fullness of his story. In the media at the time only a proportion of the story was told, as the most consistent thing any magazine or paper will give is not a balance viewpoint but one with a sharpened angle. So I’ve found it very refreshing to read his side of the story, to try to understand what drove him to this place. I cried, I laughed, I understood more. I realised I’d be a jerk with some of my comments about him fueled by my stubborness to believe in the dream of a clean sport and seeing all doped riders as part of the problem and not a cog in the solution to actually make it better. I am sorry David, you’re a better person than I gave you credit for (I was clearly being a dick!)

I’ve pretty strong views on doping. I don’t think the riders, the sport and the fans need it. I’ve argued with friends who are pro drugs on the merits of what the Peloton would look like clean. Many things will need to change, the biggest being the omertà that exists in the peloton. At first it would be easy of me to suggest that Millar had not done much (in regards to spitting in the soup) but when the suspicious activity within his own Team at the time (Saunier Duval) was reported to the UCI you’ve go to doff your cap and give a nod of respect as that took big bollocks to do. Why, well as he was trying to re-establish himself in the peloton, spitting in the soup is largely frowned upon and could have ended his career. It shows a lot about the person that had fallen in love with just riding his bike again.

I’ve been on a fan journey with Millar over the years: overjoyed at the prologue win in 2000. Blown away by his worlds time trail medal. I’ve felt betrayed & let down by the drugs bust, not wanting to believe any of it, as I’d hoped that he had done it on ‘bread & water’ (which of course are just crazy fan emotions fir riders within the sport I love so dearly). Cheered for him on his loan break by the roadside in 2007 on stage 1. And I’ve been confused by many things since which has left me confused on whether I thought he should be in the Peloton at all. This book has changed a lot for me, and I’ve found it an amazing journey over the last five days. Over the years there have been many cycling books which I’ve been told that you should read, because of this or that. But this is the only one that I’ve read that has in some ways helped restore my faith, in that the sport can be done ‘clean’ at the highest levels. So if you’re a fan of the Pro scene you should read this book as never before has it really exposed the highs & the lows to an extent which has shown the person & athlete come through the other side to the Redemption that the journeyman so requires to attain the peace that money or fame can’t buy.

But what’s really important to take in is this book is more than a story about clean cycling, dopagé and the journey back again, it’s really the story of a fourteen year old boy who fell in love with sport of road cycling and the web of life that spun out ahead of him. It makes me realise how fragile we all are and how important it is to have good friends, wise council and that ethics & ideals are the things which will help to reform our beautiful sport. So thank you David Millar as you’ve gone some way in restoring my faith in the sport that I love. If we ever get chance to meet I’ll buy you a VERY dry Martini, as I’d be honoured to share a drink with you.


A small Footnote: I don’t really want to expose the pages of the book here as it really does deserve to be read as me pulling out segments will take the story out of context, and the thing I enjoyed was actually gaining the context that the normally mainstream press removed from the whole period of his life. So pop it on a list, read it sometime to see why I enjoyed it so much, I hope you will also.




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