How We Met: Paul Smith & David Millar

'It was a dream come true to whiz along with David in front, the crowds cheering'

David Millar, 34

A one-time world champion road cyclist, Millar (right) is one of only four Brits to have worn the leader's yellow jersey in the Tour de France. In 2004, the Scot admitted having used illegal performance-enhancing drugs, for which he was handed a two-year ban. Since returning to the sport in 2006, he has become an anti-doping campaigner. He lives in Spain

There's a Peter Pan quality to Paul. Considering he's the head of a mega-fashion empire, you'd think there'd be a lot of ego there, but there isn't. He's more like an incredibly curious, slightly awkward teenage boy. I first got in touch in 2003, around the time when I was world champion, when I heard that he was into the sport I love. It's rare in the cycling world we get to meet someone cool, and as I've always been into fashion, I really wanted to show him my world.

We exchanged letters and emails and developed a mutual appreciation. Then my world fell apart [Millar was arrested in 2004 for using blood-boosting drug EPO]. He got in touch a few times during that period to see how I was, but he didn't judge me at all, which said a lot.

Just after my comeback, I had a court case in Paris to resolve a French judicial investigation into my team. Paul asked, "Have you anything to wear for it?" I said no, so he had me fitted for a couple of suits. It made me feel special at a time I didn't feel very good about myself.

We didn't actually meet face to face until the London leg of the Tour de France in 2007. He didn't ooze any of that intimidating overconfidence that some powerful people do; he just acted like he still had a little shop in Nottingham. I arranged for him to sit in the car that followed me and he was all excitable and nervous, which was hilarious.

He would have made a great pro cyclist – he has the build and the work ethic – but he doesn't have a lot of spare time, which is why I think he likes to live vicariously through me. He'll be like, "How was that mountain? It looked ridiculous!"

There's a nice symbiosis to our friendship, as Paul's helped me massively with my look and I feel much more confident in what I wear now. I've grown to love his simple, pared-down style; there's something quintessentially English there, yet a quirkiness too, and as I've got older, he's helped me smarten up.

Sir Paul Smith, 65

Though he is now a fashion designer, it was Sir Paul's ambition to become a professional racing cyclist until a serious biking accident as a teenager landed him in hospital for several months. Since opening his first menswear shop, in 1970, he now has outlets across the UK and 22 other countries. He lives in London with his wife

Before my cycling accident I used to ride bikes in competitions; I loved the feeling of the wind in my face and the challenge of the day. So I've been quite friendly with a lot of the professional cyclists – Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish – and I always knew of David, but it wasn't till his court case in 2006 that we properly connected; he wanted to wear Paul Smith for it, so he got in touch. When I heard about the charges I didn't distance myself from him, as I kept thinking, yes he's done wrong, but there was a reason – the pressures of the sport – behind it. He didn't make any excuses for taking the drugs and I know in his heart he never wanted to be part of it.

We started chatting quite regularly and when the Tour de France came to Britain four years ago we finally met, 30 minutes before the race. A lot of racers are quiet and focused, and don't really want to talk before an event, but David bounded up to me. He was so laid-back, friendly and, for a cyclist, a very good communicator; most of them are very insular and introverted. He let me watch the race in the following car, a dream come true; whizzing along the route with David cycling in front of me and the crowds cheering.

Over the years we've talked about tactics, teamwork, rivalry and mechanical problems. I was at the Italy tour recently when he was in the really serious mountain stages. He knew I was going to be following in the car so he really made an effort to be in the breakaway group so I would cheer him on and be proud. He just ran out of energy and afterwards he was like, "I couldn't believe it, I really tried my best Paul, but I ended up finishing in the bunch." But it's a tough sport and what he does is pretty amazing when you see the size of the mountains.

He's always been stylish and he's a good clotheshorse, too: tall, slim and handsome, and I was really pleased when he told me how much he liked Paul Smith [the brand].Hopefully I've helped him along a little more in the fashion stakes.

When he told me his new book [about his experiences with doping] was coming out, we threw him a party at our Covent Garden shop. It was packed full of cycling devotees and a lot of people who respect him; he's so determined about trying to clean up the sport and I think people see that commitment in him.

'Racing Through the Dark' by David Millar (Orion, £18.99) is out now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Management Trainer

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Exciting career opportunity to join East...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Scientist / Research Assistant

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious start-up company b...

Reach Volunteering: Chair of Trustees

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Do you love the Engl...

Day In a Page

Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines