By Graham Healy
In 1995, the Scot Robert Millar won the British Professional Road Race Championships on the Isle of Man for the first and only time in his career. It was to be his last ever victory, as soon afterwards his team Le Groupement folded and Millar retired from the sport.
That year, the renowned Manx Trophy doubled up as the National Championships and in winning the race, it allowed Millar to join the likes of Jacques Anquetil, Tom Simpson, Ercole Baldini, Shay Elliott and Rudi Altig on the list of winners of the race. He had come close to winning the Manx Trophy before having finished in second place back in 1978 behind Steve Lawrence.
It was a course that suited Millar who had won the King of the Mountains classification in the 1984 Tour de France as the riders would have to tackle the circuit known as the Mountain course which included Snaefell Mountain. Amongst others expected to contend for the win were the reigning British champion Brian Smith (Plymouth).
Millar missed out on the early breakaway in the 180-kilometre race and at the end of the first lap, he was four minutes down on the leaders. The leading group of six riders consisted of Eamon Byrne (Ireland), David Rand (CS Purbeck), Lee Davis (Team Energy), Mark Lovatt (Optimum Performance RT), Chris Walker (Cycles Peugeot) and Jonny Clay (Team Orange-Pertex).
However, he put in a tremendous effort to start closing down on the leading group as another strong group chased behind which included Smith, Malcolm Elliott (Chevrolet-LA Sheriffs) and Martin Earley (Raleigh). Byrne was the first of the leaders to be caught by Millar and going into the final lap, he had reduced the gap to the leaders to just over a minute.
Millar caught the lead group on the climb of Creg Willys and former Milk Race winner Walker was the last rider to hang on to his wheel as they climbed out of Ramsey for the final time, before finally getting dropped with 20 kilometres remaining.
36 year-old Millar soloed to victory, finishing two minutes ahead of Walker, and knocking ten minutes off the previous record time for the race which had been set by Wayne Randle in 1989. French amateur rider Pierre Painaud took the sprint for third with Chris Lillywhite (Karrimor) finishing in fourth place to earn the bronze medal.
It was only four days after his win and just ahead of the Tour de France that news came through that his Le Groupement team had folded, meaning that Millar would not get to wear his national champion’s jersey at the World’s biggest race.