Book Review: In search of Robert Millar by Richard Moore

 

In search of Robert Millar

Unravelling the Mystery Surrounding Britain’s Most Successful Tour de France Cyclist
by Richard Moore

What a book! Thought provoking or what?! To date this must be the most enjoyable book about a past cyclist that I have ever had the privilege to read. It was such a great relief to read In search of Robert Millar after having to plough my way through Sex, Lies and Handlebar tape (the story of Jacque Anquetil) which had taken the thick end of two weeks to read, where as In search of Robert Millar was devoured in a matter of days!

To put my desire to read this book into perspective I must stress that Robert was in a key group of Tour de France riders whom I viewed as my sporting heroes in the 1980’s and as a young rider I looked up to, not so much as people whom I wanted to emulate but rather riders with a wide range of skill sets I wanted to learn from. The list included Paul Sherwin, Sean Kelly, Martin Early, Robert Millar, Greg Lemond, Sean Yates and Malcolm Elliot. As a young rider and even now I would certainly never have been able to place myself in this group and most certainly never in the same build as Robert. If he was a thoroughbred race horse I was the working shire-horse! But what stood out to me was his ability to suffer and suffer again knowing that those he was racing against where suffering even more then him. His ability to change speed up hill and put his opponents into major difficulty was legendary no it was the stuff that young boys dreams are made of.

I guess like many I had heard the rumours that Robert was now Roberto Millar and had dropped off the radar, occasionally passing comment on various bike forums, but I never wanted to believe what I had heard without proof. In essence this is what drew me to read In search of Robert Millar, would I be disappointed?

The quick answer to this question is a resounding NO. Far from being disappointed it was great, through the eyes of Richard Moore, to get a sneak insight into the life and times of one very special rider.

Richard’s book really does give the reader good understanding of what drives Robert and the things that make him tick. So many people interviewed for the book highlight that Robert was a very special, talented rider, with a good insight into the development of a race and wining strategy. Richard also shows how far ahead of his time Robert was with training methods and nutrition. Information Robert read was applied and tested in the real world of racing, things that did not work for him were then discarded. Robert was very focused on what worked and refused to pay lip service or waste any time on fads or pointless lab research that would not be applicable to his world.

The most telling tale of lab work verse real life was Robert’s first contact with a young Sports Science researcher called Peter Keen (later Performance Director for British Cycling). At a cycling conference Peter was pushing the use of Maxim as a major enhancement to performance for riders (hmm cross reference my review of Nuun and the recent BBC documentary). Robert needless to say dismissed the lab research as the product had never been tested in the field and just like Graeme Obree his opinion is that water works best.

Robert’s and Peter’s paths crossed again later in the book when Robert had been employed by the British Cycling to aid the development of the Road Racing squad. Needless to say as Peter appears to be a numbers man and Robert appears to be an experience man with no formal qualifications in sports science, surprise surprise Peter chose to not renew Roberts contract. I shall refrain from expressing my opinion about this but really encourage you to read the book and make up your own mind about the benefits of a sports science degree or the knowledge and understanding gained from the University of Real Life.

For me the most exciting part of the book must be the Epilogue, where Richard shares his e-mail communications with Robert Millar about the writing of the book. What a fascinating exchange.

Robert Millar for my money a cycling legend with so much that we can learn from. I can not recommend highly enough that you sit down and get hold of a copy of In search of Robert Millar I am sure you will not be disappointed.


Title:
In search of Robert Millar  

Author: Richard Moore    

Published by HarperSport (HarperCollins)

Available in Paperback, iBook & Kindle

Price:
RRP £8.99 (Paperback), RRP £8.99 (eBook), RRP £18.99 (Hardback)

 
 

 
 
Previous reads include:

Sex Lies and Handlebar Tape Jacques Anquetil (reviewed August 2012)
In Pursuit of Glory Bradley Wiggins
Flying Scotsman Graeme Obree
Rough Ride Paul Kimmage
Riding through the Darkness David Millar
We were young and carefree Laurent Fignon
Boy Racer Mark Cavendish (read Darren’s review here)

 
 

Book Review: Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape

 

Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape

The remarkable life of Jacques Anquetil, the first five-times winner of the Tour de France
by Paul Howard

 
The Times ‘An extraordinary biography

The Times certainly hit the nail on the head with that one! This is certainly a very extraordinary biography. I would perhaps have re-titled the book, Sex and Drugs and ride a bike, rephrasing one of my favourite songs written by the amazing wordsmith Ian Dury. Paul Howard’s biography is certainly full of all three!

Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape unlike many of the other cycling biographies and autobiographies I have read is not an easy read. This is not due to the content of the book but rather in the style in which it is written. It is clear that Paul Howard has spent time carefully researching the facts in the book. He has done this by reading other author’s books and by talking to people around Anquetil at the time. However to ensure the reader is aware of the depth of research the book can at times be as enjoyable to read as a history text book, not totally riveting!

I found the early chapters really hard going and was not sure if I could persevere, but the desire to get under the skin of such a great cyclist drove me forward. Paul Howard deals well with all areas of Anquetil’s life, from his calculating riding style, which did not win over all the French public, to his unusual personal life and loves.

Through the book you certainly get an impression that, actually what happens today is not really that different to Anquetil’s era but somehow it has become more accepted that deals are struck for teams to work together, rider support is bought, and that it is OK to ride to a carefully calculated marginal time gain plan. Lance Armstrong and other greats certainly did this. The darkside however is perhaps the accepted use of drugs to aid performance and Anquetil’s stand against testing and his refusal to be tested after his final hour record, leading to the lack of ratification for the record. Funny to think that Paul Kimmage has become a cycling world outcast for writing about the same thing, when in reality it was all ready in the open.

The hardest part of the book to ‘get your head round’ is that fact that his wife allowed, maybe even suggested, they use Anquetils’ stepdaughter to act as a surrogate mother. This lead to a twelve year relationship, with mother and daughter. Finally imploding and leading to Anquetil developing a long term relationship with his stepson’s wife! I wonder what Jeremy Kyle would have made of that?!

Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape is most certainly an extraordinary biography and if you are willing to work at reading it, overall it is well worth the effort. You get a chance to get the inside story of one of cycling’s greatest ever Tour de France riders. Persevere, overall it was forth the effort.

 
 

Title: 
Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape – The remarkable life of Jacques Anquetil, the first five-times winner of the Tour de France  

Author: Paul Howard    

Published by Mainstream Publishing

Available in Hardback, Paperback & eBook

Price:
RRP £18.99 (Hardback), RRP £8.99 (Paperback), RRP £8.99 (eBook)

 
 
 
 

 
 

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