Time Trial

I never realised quite how fast racing cyclists go. This immersive documentary by Finlay Pretsell puts us on the handlebars and helmet of Scot David Millar as he competes in his final Tour de France.

What makes it different is how most of the time, we’re in the peloton, the chasing pack not out with the leaders, following the sheer grind of the competition, the slog of the mountains, the rush of the descents.

We’re also in the support cars and the bedrooms at night and on the massage table, taking tumbles and gasping for air.

Millar’s an interesting one despite being more dour than Andy Murray after a defeat. He was banned for doping after being Britain’s most successful rider earlier in his career, paving the way for Wiggins, Cavendish and Froome. He’s still the only Brit to have worn leader’s jerseys on European cycling’s greatest Tours – France, Italy and Spain. But here his career is coming to an end and he’s fighting against the dying of the light and doesn’t look very happy about it.

It’s a strangely exhausting experience to watch, boosted by Dan Deacon’s whooshing electronic score and some impressive photography of mountains, crowds, villages, as they zoom by in a blur. There’s a wonderful sequence of Millar grabbing water bottles – and an energy bar – from the support vehicle as he rides, stuffing them in his lycra and pedalling to catch up his team mates. 

I’d have liked more background about his doping, his guilt, his building of the team he represents and which eventually betrays him – but this is really about being in the saddle, in the zone, the whir, the click, the rivalry, the riders and what someone in an email to Millar poetically terms the “camaraderie of 200 other idiots”.