In Search of Robert Millar, published in 2007, is now considered something of a classic. If memory serves, the launch was held in a cool little bar in the east end of Glasgow. Neil Lennon even turned up.
That's good going even for you, I can hear Richard say. Second paragraph and you’ve managed to crowbar in a reference to football.
It might have been that very night when Richard signed the edition now sitting on my desk. “Dear Chuck,” (the nickname dating from school that he still used for me - don’t ask). “Don’t ever hang up on me again. Love you man, Vern.” Big Vern was his nickname, coined at Aberdeen University. Again, don’t ask.
The incident referred to must have been a since forgotten tiff of some sort, the kind easily shrugged off when you speak more or less every day. The phone became an even more valuable method of communication during lockdown when he moved to Picardie in France with his wife, Virginie, and son Maxime. It was there where he passed away on Monday, aged just 48.
My world has collapsed. Those who I love won’t be offended when I say nothing can be the same again because they know the bond we shared.
It’s why I'm sitting here writing this column for a space Richard always distinguished on the many occasions he wrote for this paper over the years. It's why I am not watching Dundee play a high stakes game as planned as a birthday treat. Little else matters anymore. I'm sure I heard something about a World Cup draw too.
It has taken me five days to put something down amid the tidal wave of affection for such a much-loved, talented figure, who as well as writing several award-winning sports books, represented Scotland as a cyclist at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur (he even had the good grace to endure more than 20 years of ribbing about the puncture he sustained in the road race).
Huey Morgan dedicated a Sigur Ros song to Richard on Radio 6 yesterday. Richard Osman paid tribute and described The Dirtiest Race in History, about the 100m final at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, as one of his favourite sports books of all-time. “RIP Richard” has been trending this week on Twitter. In a brilliant, grief-sodden stream of consciousness tribute to Richard by writer Kate Wagner, who only met him for the first time at the Tour de France last year, he is described as "cycling's greatest ambassador".
My own agonising as I sit here wearing out the delete button would amuse Richard, for whom writing always seemed to come so easily. This easy manner transferred to the microphone as shown by the success of the Cycling Podcast he created with Lionel Birnie and Daniel Friebe. They led the way in this sphere, whatever Jake Humphrey says.
It is therefore no exaggeration to say Richard was a media pioneer though of course I never told him that.
I wish I had done so on Sunday, but I missed his call. Phones can be cruel devices. I've been on it a lot this week as the Richard Moore community rallies around one another, but I've not yet missed enough calls for the one marked “Vern” to stop registering in red on the screen. That will happen in time. Somehow life must go on.
The memories must be treasured, such as attending the latter stages of the 2009 Tour de France with Richard – typically thoughtful, he urged me to join him to cheer me up after a relationship breakup.
There was some drama near the top of Mont Ventoux after David Millar threw a signed Garmin team cap towards the Tom Simpson memorial in tribute. An eager fan grabbed it. Richard caught up with the fan and politely explained the meaning of Millar’s gesture, retrieved the cap and handed it to Simpson’s daughter, Joanne, who was also there paying tribute. In return he promised to get in touch with Millar and obtain a replacement cap which he would then pass on to the fan, whose contact details he had noted. Everyone left happy. A typical encounter with Vern.
Even now, with deadline nearing, I can feel him willing me on. He was my greatest champion.
I'm not embarrassed to say I emailed my deputy sports editor on Friday night saying this assignment had defeated me. I was lost without my emergency hotline.
Better to have stuck with the original plan for something from Chris Hoy or Callum Skinner, who I know loved Richard too and can boast somewhat more impressive two-wheeled credentials.
But he'd want me to do this, I'm sure of it. He’d want me to try and make myself feel better by writing it out.
I’ll read this back in years to come and scold myself because I know I haven’t got these words quite right. I am already angry because, although I was lucky to spend more time with Richard than many, it's not enough.
I want the 30 more years, at least, of friendship we laughably felt entitled to expect. The many more holidays before our sons grew out of building sandcastles on the beach together, something they were doing as recently as October.
Even lockdown hasn’t cured the curse of casualness when it comes to making plans.
Richard had been badgering me about returning to France for Easter. I was delaying because I wanted to wait and see if Dundee made it to the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup. Amazing what used to seem important.
In the admittedly slender chance of this happening, I’d come out on the Monday, I had told him, a couple of days after my son Jack and partner Nathalie.
News travels fast these days. Seconds after Connor Goldson put Rangers ahead inside ten minutes of the quarter-final, my phone pinged with a message sent from northern France to the press box at Dens Park: “Booked those flights yet?”
I did book those flights - Richard was excited about introducing me to the delights of the Paris-Roubaix climax. It’s just that – unfathomably, unbearably – there’s an unscheduled trip to France to make first next week to say a final goodbye.
Love you man.