CyclingHe used to be called Robert Millar and wore the polka dot sweater
Fourth on the Tour and best climber in 1984, the Scotsman, who changed his name and gender to become Philippa York, is working on this Big Loop for Australian television.
- Christian Maillard
(Weather in Carcassonne)
In the early 90’s, during the Tour de Romandie, in Nendaz, just after arrival. The young journalist I was still remembers it very well. Robert Millar won. The mission: to collect your impressions. The champion, who had won three stages at the Grande Boucle, including the polka dot spot in 1984, had not been pleasant that day. This prominent climber did not like the hot questions, after a lot of effort, it was his obsession.
Today has changed. In any point of view. The former Peugeot and Panasonic driver, who retired from the sport in 1995, was an unhappy, bad man who suffered a lot in a body that was not his. Since 2002, after a long transition period (3 and a half years), she is now called Philippa York and is … a journalist.
“When I started treatment, I could stop at a certain time or continue. I went to the end and was born a second time, ”he revealed during his coming out, in 2017.“ If I had turned 20 today, I would have already started the process, but at that time. (in 1978)this did not exist, I had to live with this suffering “, he declared then to the Parisian.
We met her in the Alpe-d’Huez press room, where she came so many times when she was training before the Tour de France. “Suffice it to say that I know these 21 cords well,” smiles the 63-year-old lady, who recalled this arrival in Nendaz and her rather dry answers that day. “Like Fignon, who was the same as me, it was the best way to leave me alone afterwards!” Laughs the Scot who lives in peace in Weymouth, in the south of England.
Philippa, were there so many people on this climb up the Alpe-d’Huez when you climbed it with your bike and a polka dot jersey on your shoulders?
Yes, and there was always a lot of pressure and excitement until the first corner, because for me it had to be in front right away, otherwise we wouldn’t recover. There were a lot of people too, but there were far fewer Britons than there are now. Cycling was less well known in England. We were 3 or 4, today they have at least fifteen.
It was your first climb to the Alpe-d’Huez by car, what do you prefer?
It took me longer in the car than on the bike! There were a lot of people, including people who had camped overnight, but it’s less crazy than I imagined.
And the Col du Granon, whose peloton went up last Wednesday, were you also in the peloton in 1986, when the Tour was the last one here?
And it had broken after only 4 miles. He had been fighting to the top. It was the year that Bernard Hinault also exploded and lost his shirt.
Do you have fond memories of your 11 tours of France as a runner?
I had good and not so good times on the Tour de France because it’s obvious you can’t be in the lead for three weeks. There are days when you feel great, when you can play for the stage victory, and others when I ran out of oxygen in the passes and I got really hurt.
Is it easier to cover the Tour de France as a journalist or on a bicycle?
It is easier to do the stage by car because when it is too hot the air conditioning can be turned on, and when the temperature is lower, the heating is turned on. And if it rains, there are windshield wipers, not bikes. It’s a different stress even if it’s also at the last minute that you do your best to win the stage, write your article, or make a comment for radio or television.
Who do you work for in this Tour de France?
I’m on this tour for SBS TV, which is Australian television. I do texts online, but I also have a program called “Bonjour le Tour”, which is broadcast in the morning after the stage as there is a time difference of 7 to 8 hours. After Ben O’Connor’s retirement, I stay with Mikael Matthews and Michael Storer.
And what are you talking about in your columns?
I’m not talking about rankings or gaps, they are analysis, what happened on stage, why this driver broke or another won. It’s just my feeling.
Would you have liked to be in this platoon today, with this heat and that speed?
With the material it goes faster than before, it is true, but the hierarchy is always respected. In all ages, if you have talent and are in good health, you will be ahead.
Are you still driving, Philippa?
I ride for fun and to stay healthy, but I go slower, less far and no longer climb steps. I am now sixty years old. People think I could ride like I did 30 years ago, but no, I’ll be retiring soon.
Jeannie Longo, who is your age, still competes in races, she …
Long? But this is not my problem. By then it was already special. I won’t bother him.
Are you going to cover the women’s Tour de France for your media?
I do not know yet. If there is work for me, why not?