David Millar has hardly had time to put his feet up since calling time on a 17-year professional career five months ago.
We meet him at a tennis club in well-to-do Ilkley, at a low-key gathering to announce Maserati Cycling, specifically its title sponsorship of the Tour de Yorkshire Ride, a sportive to be held on the final stage of ASO’s three-day Tour de Yorkshire in May.
Millar has begun an ambassadorial role with Maserati, and while he is an elegant fit for a marque with style to burn and a sporting pedigree to rival any, it is not in his nature to mouth platitudes. He is erudite, eloquent, and not disposed to pulling punches.
Millar is not circumspect on CIRC, for example. The report of the Cycling Independent Reform Commission, while containing little that followers of the sport didn’t already know, strayed into the realm of controversy by challenging the so-called ‘no testing window’, between 11pm and 6am.
“I just don’t think that’s realistic,” Millar says. “From my experience, I think you’re going to lose the hearts and minds of the clean riders. They don’t deserve that. It’s a minority that are doping. We have to look after the majority and catch the minority within that framework.”
Millar speaks as a member of WADA’s athletes committee.
“There was always that at the back of our minds: that we were out to protect the clean riders, and help them do their job, and give them the opportunities they deserve, but within that framework we also had to be able to catch the bad guys.
“I think that within that seven-hour window at night, they can catch people still if they target them properly. And within the Code currently, they can go after people under extenuating circumstances.”
He offers Lloyd Mondory as a recent example. The 32-year-old Frenchman returned an adverse analytical finding that revealed traces of EPO in an-out-of competition test taken on February 17, 2015. He has been suspended pending testing of his B sample.
Millar describes CIRC’s failure to gain greater testimony from the peloton’s under 28s as a “gaping hole” in the report, but concedes that it is not entirely the Commission’s fault. All things considered, however, he believes the report does not offer a snapshot of the modern peloton and is coloured by a greater volume of testimony from those who transgressed.
“I think you need to ask carefully to find out the prevalence,” he suggests, referring to the more extraordinary doping practices reported, including abuse of anti-depressants. “Who is telling you that? Is that the ex-dopers who were doing that?”
More needs to be done to grasp the nettle of TUE abuse, Millar agrees, but he believes the endemic use of painkillers described in the report is being tackled by the MPCC. He is bemused by testimony that a rider had taken up to 30 pills in a stage. “It has to be taken with a pinch of salt, I think.”
Millar is less concerned by the slow start made to the season by his former team, now Cannondale-Garmin, but believes that retaining the services of Dan Martin, out of contract at the end of the season, will be critical.
“He’s become that team now. There’s not many guys out on the market that you can almost guarantee are going to be up there in the Ardennes, and almost guarantee they’re going to win Lombardy. That’s a commodity right there.” Slipstream’s contract renewal offer must be consistent with Martin’s market value, if he is to remain with the team, Millar believes.
Yorkshire is green and pleasant, even in March, and Millar has ridden with Maserati’s guests, including Michelin-starred chef, Alan Murchison, a duathlon world champion, who has prepared lunch (delicious) and will be providing the fare for a feed station at the Tour de Yorkshire Ride.
Millar chats in his riding kit. Tennis clubs and fine dining are a world removed from Campaniles and musettes, but Millar seems at home in his new world. In truth, this is not the plunge into the unknown that it might have been for some of his contemporaries. Millar has been sought out for years by journalists seeking an intelligent commentary on life in the peloton and it’s little surprise that ambassadorships and media work are now his thing.
Millar is also a motorsport aficionado. Joining forces with Fangio’s former employers is likely to have appealed; so too the sports car that accompanies his new role. Millar’s knowledge of Maserati’s world is comprehensive, and Maserati is immersing itself in cycling.
Peter Denton, Maserati’s chief in northern Europe, confides that Millar’s knowledge of motorsport is “encyclopedic”, making him an obvious choice to spearhead the brand’s association with cycling. “The link to David was very simple: a very high profile, very successful, now former pro cyclist who had some time on his hands and an interest in Maserati.”
Millar seems scarcely able to believe his luck. The sports car is perhaps not the first equipment he has owned with the Ghibli moniker, but must have been a significant inducement. “It’s one of those things – and it’s rare to say this – but it’s like a dream come true,” he says.
The route and participants of the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire have been announced earlier and Millar is confident that the ASO’s event will gain approval from the peloton, perhaps even coming to occupy a valued seasonal niche not dissimilar to the Tour of Britain’s pre-Worlds slot.
“It’s a good, small stage race, with ASO organisation and up here [Yorkshire] with plenty of crowds, I think it’s going to be a really popular race,” he says. “It’s a nice addition to the calendar. It’s something different. It’s in a nice period as well: a sort of transition period in the season; not super high-stress.”
Millar will commentate on the Tour de Yorkshire for ITV4. Television work will require him to re-engage with the sport. He doesn’t own a TV and “can’t be arsed” to watch races on a computer, although he reads results. The continual flood of new riders makes it hard to keep up, he laughs, but media commitments will provide an enjoyable inducement to do so. He is less concerned by the task of providing analysis.
“It’s quite nice because it’s something that I just know. It’s in my blood. When I watch a race, I see what’s happening and subconsciously, it’s all there. It should be a fun gig to just talk about racing.”
If Millar considered his time fully occupied as a rider, it is perhaps occurring to him that his new career might be busier still. He doesn’t seem to mind. Retirement from two wheels has its perks, and at least one of them has four.
David Millar is an ambassador for Maserati GB, the title sponsor of the Tour de Yorkshire Ride. Visit http://letour.yorkshire.com/tour-de-yorkshire/sportive