The first aroma you get is of crisp, fresh air as he’s finding his love for the bike in his youth. Then comes the heady smell of teen spirit as he rampages unrestrained through Hong Kong.
This is followed by the warm smell of honest sweat as he goes through his first few years as a professional cyclist. Then it starts to reek a bit. The hard metallic tang of cheating and guilt is intermingled with the cloying sweet scent of self-pity. Both of these are soon overpowered by the acrid smoke of the crackling bonfire at the foot of the stake, where the holy zealot he becomes piles the wood on for a more intense, purifying heat.
Then, luckily, just as we’re about to get choked on his self-righteousness, we get to clearer air, when the edge is taken off his zealotry and he actually comes across as a sensible, no-nonsense advocate for both cycling and anti-doping. A role that suits him and his sport well.
The only other smell you get from this book is a concentrated immersion in the heady cologne of arrogance as he talks about how he practically single-handedly brought the Slipstream team together (with Jonathan Vaughters and Doug Ellis sitting calmly on the sidelines watching Dave arrange everything). This was probably one of my favourite parts of the book just because it made me laugh so much. He kind of got away from himself in this section but I thought two things were particularly interesting: his admission that he would have gone to Sky if he could and his castigation of Wiggins for his ungrateful (and I think unforgivable) behaviour in the wake of his 4th place finish with Garmin [when he unceremoniously jumped ship to Sky at the end of 2010 – Ed].
All in all, however, this is a book for anyone who wants insight into the world of professional cycling. Is it the whole story of David Millar’s cycling career? I doubt it, there are some coy moments that didn’t ring true, but these are few and far between. The fact that there are no captions with the photographs that are sprinkled through the book is a major irritation. That aside, this book should raise the standard of cyclists’ memoirs, in terms of the quality of the writing and the honesty of the story.
- Racing Through the Dark by David Millar – a book for an Olympic year (guardian.co.uk)