Book Review: David Millar's 'Racing Through The Dark'

Belief. Something that can take years to establish, yet seconds to dismiss. A word that in the 1990s and 2000s held little association with the spectators’ perception of professional cycling. With the Festina Affair, Operation Puerto, Ullrich, Landis, Contador and Armstrong, to name but a few, it was hard for cycling fans to watch the performances of their idols, without at least some scepticism of the honesty of the entailing victories.

A month ago, I read and reviewed Tyler Hamilton’s ‘The Secret Race’ (Link). Hamilton’s account of the widespread doping leaves you with a distinct distrust of the professional peloton, and gives a stark realisation of how widespread doping became.

‘Racing Through The Dark’ by David Millar is fundamentally different. Yes, it is a confession, and in part it is a justification of the doping that Millar undertook in the early 2000s. However, crucially, it makes you believe in professional cycling again. It gives you faith that things are changing, if slowly, for the better. It reveals that doping is not a black and white subject, but a complex, difficult and deeply psychological battle for those that become involved in it.

Millar’s account takes you on a personal, highly informative journey. Guiding you through his years as a struggling teenage neo-pro, through his early achievements on the professional scene, into the dark days of doping and the off-the-rail activities of his two year ban. Then out the other side, with his renaissance as a clean rider, and as a strong advocate in the fight against the doping culture.

The final word in ‘Racing Through The Dark’ is “Redemption”. A word that epitomises how the reader feels towards Millar as the book progresses. For me, David Millar has always stood out in the peloton; his sense of perspective, educated viewpoints and years of experience make him a classy interviewee, and a believable and personable character. It is that character, which is only reinforced through the account of his behaviour in ‘Racing Through The Dark’, which makes you trust in Millar’s comeback, and in his ability with the help of others, to change the entire sport for the better.

It is highly unlikely that professional cycling is fully clean; in a sport where the athletes are always looking for the smallest of gains, the benefits of doping are too great to exterminate from the minds of the competitors. However, there is no doubt that things are hugely better than they have been in the past; teams like Garmin, Sky, HTC Highroad and others have all been seen to take a highly anti-doping stance, and lead by example at proving that victory can be achieved on pure talent and without the aid of drugs. ‘Racing Through The Dark’ is undoubtedly the best explanation of this transformation that I have read. Superbly written, this is a first-hand account of a battle against doping. It is a must read for anyone that doubts the transformation of the sport; bringing the world ‘Belief’ back into the cycling diction.

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