We did the Première Manche - the first round - of A Travers riding across France from Dieppe to Marseille in the summer of 2009, and it was the original inspiration for this blog. The plan to put the 'band back together again' for another go in 2013 for the second installment fell on stoney ground, with life just getting in the way for too many of us, much to our disappointment. However, our enthusiasm for the bike remains undimmed, and so I'll keep posting my thoughts on the diverse and beautiful facets of the sport regardless. But there's bound to be another big 'adventure ride' coming soon - quite possibly in Italy - so potentially a name change too: Attraverso l'Italia in Bicicletta anyone?

Monday, 16 April 2012

Robert Millar, World Professional Road Race Championships, Sallanches 1980

I already mentioned Robert Millar's fantastic ride at the World Championships on the last day in August 1980 in my earlier post, and then decided to re-read the relevant section in  Richard Moore's excellent book "In Search of Robert Millar". To quote Millar from it:

"It was just untrue the way I felt when they droppped me" ... "For this race I just tried to ride my bike like in any other one, but it does something to you when you see riders like [that year's Tour de France winner Joop] Zoetemelk crack and you're sitting there comfortably. I'm not too disappointed. There was a time when I really thought I might get the bronze - not before the race of course. With a lap to go I felt all right, but then everything went."

Fifteen finishers from 107 starters - and Millar is still there on lap seventeen of  twenty of the Sallanches circuit
Britain may well have a World Champion for 2011/12 in Mark Cavendish, but I'm of the opinion that Millar's 1980 result is far more impressive. When kids initially get into cycling, what do they ask? Firstly they'll want to know about your bike: how many gears has it got? Can you lift it up with one finger? Then talk will progress on to the stuff that we all find challenging on a bike: riding up hills, and the ones in the neighbourhood you have to get off and walk up. The Domancy climb looks like one big hill to me, and Millar will have been riding it on a 20-pounds-plus steel Peugeot bike, with, I'm guessing, a six-speed block ... heck, perhaps even a seven. Rohan will no doubt know for sure, but more than likely a Maillard Compact 700 'Super', driven by a Sedis Pro chain. Over to you on that one, Doctor D.

Millar achieved this eleventh place, over a murderously hilly 268km course, on his own - as with seemingly everything in his career - rather than with the aid of a well-drilled dedicated GB squad, supported during the season by a multi-million pound commercial outfit and various development programs. I'm not knocking Cav at all, since his is almost a different discipline to this type of riding, but Millar's finish was one achieved in a race where there would be no hiding places and little point in a 'train' to deliver you to the final 200 metres.

In Search of Robert Millar, by Richard Moore. Published by Harper Sport. ISBN: 978-0-00-723501-8