David Millar wins stage 12 for the old boys

I like David Millar. I follow him on Twitter and he seems pithy and intelligent. I’ve thought a few times that his sense of humour is more like that of someone my age. Turns out Millar is a year older than me. That would explain it.

I am 34-years-old

I returned to cycling after developing a handful of age-related conditions. I suddenly realised that my body was deteriorating whether I liked it or not and I wanted to slow that process and also make the most of it before anything too debilitating struck me down. I think it’s a rather early mid-life crisis. I’ve always been ahead of the curve.

As a result of this, I see the sport as being partly about staving off middle-age. Watching the professionals, I’ve found myself rooting for the older rider where once I might have been drawn to the feckless youth who was frittering away his promise.

Receding heroes

In many ways there’s more to admire about riders like David Millar, Jens Voight and George Hincapie. They’re not riding for personal glory, because their best days are behind them. They’re generally the ones doing the unheralded donkey work for their team captains; exhausting themselves completely before falling back around the time people actually start tuning in to watch a stage.

These older guys are riding because they love cycling and they’re presumably doing it in the face of creeping, incremental evidence that they are only getting worse. Knowing the science of the sport, they can probably see their slow deterioration presented in graph form if they so desire. There’s pain in knowing you’re slowing and if there’s one thing that defines great cyclists, it’s that they can endure pain.

Grey areas

Millar has a mixed history, but even that elevates him in my eyes. I don’t admire the doping itself, obviously, just his reaction to it. Anyone can make a stupid mistake – even a prolonged, calculated one – but not everyone goes beyond not making the same mistake again afterwards.

Evidence suggests that at that time, many cyclists were making the same mistake as Millar; that it was practically the norm. For him to look back and judge himself is unusual, because the natural inclination is to bubble wrap the conscience by making excuses and explaining these things away. The tight, insular cycling subculture is a good reason why it could happen, but Millar distinguishes between a reason and an excuse.

The old man of now

I admire the man of now for displaying these qualities rather than cursing the man of back then. This is why I feel the old man of now deserved his stage 12 victory.

How did he win it? You’d have to ask him, but I’d like to think that it was down to age and experience: a bit of nous to get him into the break and then the endurance and recovery built up during countless grand tours giving him the physical advantage over younger legs at the finish.

Eat well and do stretches, everybody.