It was in February 1997 that I was scared and lonely getting into a taxi to begin my life as a professional cyclist in Nice. A conversation began with the taxi driver, I think he was curious about what I was doing there with a bike and a suitcase all alone as a young looking 20 year old. I tried to tell him in my broken French that I was a professional cyclist. He was one of the very first people I could say that to.
My answer illuminated him, he asked me for whom I raced, I told him Cofidis, he didn't know who or what that was, after all the team hadn't even taken part in it's first race at the time and Cofidis itself was nearly unknown.
He asked me if I was English, I told him I was Scottish, he said, "Ecossé? Mieux que les anglais! C'est quoi ton nom?" I told him, "David Millar" although I said it in the French accent I'd become accustomed to using when asked what my name was, because only the French cared about my name, and so I said, "Daveed Meelaar". To which he answered, "Meelaar! Vous etes famille avec Robert?"
I told him I wasn't, and I that I'd never even met you.
Twenty years later and I deal with this on quite a regular basis in France and Spain, that's how much you affected people, you embedded yourself in their memory.
Oddly, what was once an annoying occurrence has become a comforting misunderstanding. Robert Millar made my life so much easier, his success, and our shared family name (a name that oddly works in both French and Spanish) meant I was always related to him or simply called Robert, "Meelaar" felt familiar to people.
Yet I'm not Robert, I'm David.
I've known you, Pippa, for a good few years now. It's been strange to see you write as Robert for cyclingnews.com and Rouleur when I know you're no longer Robert. Although I understand why you've done it because the world can be quick with it's cruelty.
Pippa York is one of the greatest ever British cyclists.
And, on a completely personal note, at least there's only one "Meelaar" now, I just wish people would stop calling me Robert.
Looking forward to shooting the breeze on ITV4 with you. Two old Scottish bike racers.
Daveed "not Robert" Meelaar