By Robbie Broughton
The film Time Trial which documents the final year of David Millar’s racing career is released at the Amsterdam film festival this weekend. Talking to Ned Boulting at the Rouleur Classic a couple of weeks ago, he gave a fascinating insight into how it was made while remembering an annus horribilis when he found himself deselected from the Tour de France team he helped to set up.
Millar had been discussing the idea for the film with Director Finlay Pretsell for some years before it finally got the green light. What could have been a triumphant swan song at the end of an eventful career which had seen him make a comeback to professional racing after a two year doping ban, turned into something rather different as his form, motivation and results began to take a nose dive.
The film takes a dark turn when Millar has to cope with feelings of betrayal: “Loyalties that I thought I had didn’t exist…you get to see the brutal honesty of the sport and my sadness. It broke my heart when they deselected me.”
Although that hadn’t been in the plan Millar says, “That’s what made the film. It makes it much more honest and real rather than being a cliché with a lovely ending.” The film has been described as a “rage against the fading light” as Millar is forced to confront his waning abilities.
“There’s that creeping realisation that you’re not that good anymore. I’d lost my powers. In my last year I realised how much I’d taken it for granted…I lost that ability when I got older. I didn’t work hard enough, I was tired, massively tired.”
Coming back to professional cycling after his enforced lay-off had taken a monumental effort. He positioned himself as a reformed doper, becoming a spokesman against the very culture that he had been a part of. He also had to prove himself as a clean rider. The effort to do so ultimately burned him out and he paid the toll further down the line.
“Between 2006 and 2012 were some of the most intense of my life with interviews, seminars…I was horribly abused by lots of people, non stop all the time. But I had a bigger purpose, to fix my mistakes and ride my bike as best as I could. The only way that was going to empower me was by actually performing. I did all that stuff and trained really hard and god knows how my wife put up with it…Even when I was at home I was away.”
He says that the turning point came on the 2012 tour de France on July 13th, the anniversary of Tom Simpson’s death. With many of his teammates crashing out, he was given the opportunity to drop his team captain role and race for himself. He won the stage, his fifth and what would be his last Tour stage victory. “I remember lying on the ground and thinking ‘I’ve come full circle. I’m done now.’ And I never won a bike race again. A bit just died – the flame just went out.”
As well as focusing on Millar’s despair as he faces the end of the road as a bike racer, the film offers a fascinating insight into the machinations of the peloton from the grumbling and whining among the riders to the stress of competing in a bunch sprint. High quality on-board cameras and state of the art sound give a view that hasn’t been seen before.
The film is being screened all of next week in Amsterdam with hopes for a release in the UK next year. More details can be found on the film's website.