Ahead of the festive period Brendan Gallagher is reviewing some of the latest cycling titles published this year. Check out his latest review below.

There are several reviews of new and upcoming titles on the way, but kicking us off is a quick look at David Millar's latest autobiography.

Don't forget you can check out further details of the SweetSpot Cycling Book of the Year Award here and find more reviews of cycling books from the past two years.

The Racer – Life on the Road as Pro Cyclist By David Millar
Published by Yellow Jersey Press
RRP: £20
Review: By Brendan Gallagher
Available from all good book stores and online from Amazon here

Given the choice I suspect this is the book David Millar would have opened his literary account with. A glorious, funny/ serious, free-wheeling, free-thinking, beer swilling and cursing romp through a year in the life of a Pro-cyclist – namely him – with scarcely a mention of Doping and associated low life subjects.

Of course the book Millar actually kicked off his literary career with was the splendid Racing in the Dark which, although dealing with is career in total, majored heavily on his descent into doping, the pain and disruption that caused to his life and loved ones and his eventual climb back to normality and salvation of sorts. It was a matter of honour, the deal he made with himself, and it was therefore inevitable that when he penned his first autobiographical tome he would kick off in the same vein. The big serious failing in his racing career had to be confronted first. He sought no mercy or forgiveness.

But now in The Racer he can relax and fully express his sheer love for the sport and friendship with those who he raced with and against without people throwing stones. David Millar was a gifted kid who fell in love with cycling at a time when it was neither cool nor indeed a serious career option for young Brits as it is now.

In terms of ‘going continental’ and making his own way as road racer of world standing he was pushing back the frontiers long before Brad Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and others. For a few years mid-career his life went rotten but despite a few setbacks in his final season Millar departed the sport as that same love-struck pedal head, the final victory although it won’t appear anywhere on his palmares.

""Symbolically the last time he ever pinned a number to his jersey was the strictly amateur Bec Hill Climb in Kent last October and rather poignantly just before the start he ran into the High Wycombe club member Scott Paterson who had held the 15 year old Millar up at the start of his first ever Time-Trial at Thame twenty years earlier. Paterson had been there at the start and having read of Millar’s swansong appearance wanted to be there at the finish.

The diary of a year is a tried and tested literary device but Millar applies a couple of twists of his own. Now the proud father of two young boys, he sent a series of delightful postcards home as he travelled around the circuit which will act as keepsakes for decades to come. Indeed finding a suitable postcard became his most pressing priority at every venue where perhaps in former years, grabbing a beer might have taken priority. Life moves on. Some of the postcards are faithfully reproduced in the book and helpfully signpost us along the way. A few choice tweets also help that process.

Meanwhile Millar had fully intended to be competitive to the bitter end but a combination of a slow start to the season, illness, crashes and a major falling out with the Garmin management meant that for much of the time, if not exactly on a lap of honour, he had the opportunity to reflect on past races, good and bad. These he weaves skilfully into proceedings without taking the pace away too much from the main narrative.

The dramatic worsening of relations with Garmin  – a team that he helped found with Jonathan Vaughters and Doug Ellis – and his eventual shock dropping from their Tour de France by DS Charly Wegelius provides an unexpectedly hard edge to the book which otherwise, leans towards the humorous and whimsical with the occasional dash of philosophising as befits an ageing doyen of his profession.  All good things come to an end but it is with genuine sadness and a shaking of the head that you read about the breakdown of a relationship between a team and rider who were virtually synonymous.

For various reasons which you can acquaint yourselves  in the book, Millar was a bit behind in his Tour preparations – the focus of his season along with the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow – but was still confident of it being alright on the night. He used the Criterium du Dauphine as a hard training block and then, having promised himself an easy recovery week to reap the full benefit, he returned home to Girona to discover his house had been burgled and ransacked. A chaotic, restless, sleepless week not unnaturally followed and his body rebelled and he went down with lurgi, swollen glands, sweats. The Full Monty.

He was strongly tempted to miss the GB Nationals, a week before the Tour Depart in Yorkshire – to clear the system but having talked things through with Wegelius and been assured he was in the Tour team he travelled over to Wales, basically to rest up in a good hotel and ride gently round the TT circuit and road race course, dropping out if he felt he was aggravating his condition.  He also relished an annual catch up with old GB colleagues, it would be good for morale.

At this stage it gets very acrimonious. Suddenly, as reported in the book, Wegelius is on the phone insisting on a certain level of performance in both races. Millar meanwhile was still coughing up all sorts of unmentionable gunge although that is often the sign of an infection coming to the end of its natural course.

The denouement came the Monday after the road race, when he dropped out towards the end. Wegelius rang and promptly informed Millar that he was be axed from the Tour squad and, that was it. No debate, not even an argument.

The anger blazes off the pages and flares up intermittently throughout the remainder of the book. Within a couple of days Millar was fully recovered and he felt his track record in the Tour entitled him to a bit more trust and understanding. Mentions of Vaughters and Wegelius are conspicuous by their absence thereafter although there is still a strong camaraderie with his fellow Garmin riders in his two remaining major races – the Eneco Tour and the Vuelta Espane where he crashed badly but struggled on to finish despite broken fingers and a smashed hand.

One of the reasons Millar ploughed on was a welcome rapprochement between himself and Dave Brailsford, a friend as well GB boss of long standing. The two had rather drifted apart in recent years after Millar had been critical of Brailsford's zero tolerance policy at Sky whereby they didn’t want anybody with any historic doping connections in the team or the backup staff. Millar believes this is currently impossible and impractical and can lead to negative publicity – for a team he acknowledges is in the forefront of anti-doping – when somebody's past is uncovered.
 
Anyway, they kissed and made up on the start line of the Vuelta, indeed Brailsford had kicked that process off by sending a text the previous month commiserating with his deselection from the Tour.  Millar had assumed that, without a Tour de France to state his case after an anonymous season, he was out of the reckoning for the World Championships in September but Brailsford, offering the olive branch, insisted that if Millar was anywhere fit for purpose and could avoid crashing in the next three weeks everybody in the GB camp wanted him to finish his career in national colours.

And so it came to pass. Millar was actually banged up good and proper with his damaged hand – he underwent an operation after he completed that final hill climb last October – and the course wasn’t ideally suited to him but by common consent the entire team wanted him on board.

They didn't tear up any trees but afterwards Brailsford made a heartfelt presentation to Millar of three race numbers signed by the team. 9 to represent the number of World Time Trial championships he had contested for GB, 11  the number of world road races he had rode in and finally 64, his last ever professional race number.

You can feel the pride and almost a passing over of the baton as Millar and the next generation – Pete Kennaugh, Ben Swift, Luke Rowe and others – got stuck into the beers during a four hour bus ride back into Madrid.

Life on the road, it has been the making and occasionally breaking of David Millar but he wouldn't have swapped it for the world.