Graeme Obree Interview

Interview by:

The former world hour record holder holds a special place in the heart for any biker around the world who witnessed is rise from local Scottish hero to world Champion. Obree arrived on the top step of the cycling world in 1993 when he shattered Francesco Moser’s nine-year old hour record by riding 51.596 Kilometers during a second try less than 24 hours after the first. We hooked up with the Biking Legend for a short interview.

BP: Graeme, Do you think your grass roots respect comes from the fact that you
seemed to achieve most in your career without massive support?

I empathize with the grass roots because I came from there and also I never fitted into the professional field, fundamentally since most of them considered me a rank amateur and that I did not take my profession seriously by way of not taking performance enhancing substances. There was a mutual loss of respect from the first day.

BP : When you won gold at the world championships in the 4,000-meter pursuit in
1993 in the crouch position, I take it there was no wind tunnel testing- have
you a talent to visualize aerodynamics?

The development of aerodynamics for me was a case of finding what was better than what I had before. When you ride fixed wheel then you detect small differences and you just keep tweaking and tweaking. Reduction of frontal area is a good move as a general rule

BP: What are your memories when you seen Moser using your ‘your’ position?

Moser using my position was a great accolade but the sponge support and the very forward saddle probably helped the position being banned in the end. They did me a favor though since at the time I did not realize I had sunk into a comfort zone and the ban forced me to re-develop.

BP: After your crouch position was banned, you returned with an equally
revolutionary ‘superman’ position. Did you feel the authorities were out to get
you when it too was banned?

I think the superman position was more aesthetically beautiful than the crouch and was much easier to adopt. When it got banned it had been adopted by loads of riders and had been used to win a lot of Olympic medals. Chris Boardman also used it to regain the Hour Record. When it was banned I think it was partly personal and partly a distraction from what was happening in the drug scandal side. Probably the longest lasting innovation was the outboard bearings mounted onto the cranks, which seems to be the norm for most high-end bikes these days.

BP: You revealing book (the flying Scotsman) was open and honest, when you
watched the movie made from it, did you recognise the man up on the screen as

I was on set for most of the filming and the scenes where you see the track coming at you from a riders eye was filmed by me on a regular track bike with a huge reel to reel 250 grand camera mounted on the handle bars. No pressure like! I don’t think any of the actors could have been better cast and Johnny did do a great job. No slouch on the bike either!

BP: You were sacked by your team before the 1995 Tour De France for not
contenting to using drugs. Do you the drug culture robbed you of a professional

I absolutely was robbed of my career after the French affair. Even being world champion after that there were no offers. It only took me ten years to realise I had been fired! It was a huge resentment that did not help my well-being either. I did not know how badly I felt about it until the finish of the 2006 Tour when I had to walk away. My friends said I was over-reacting but we all know how it panned out the next day.

BP: Do think the sport has really changed?

I can’t comment on how the sport is since I am too distant from it

BP: One of the most impressive results of your career was your 50-mile road
record of 1 hour 39 minutes. I remember feeling fantastic having just broke two
hours for 50 and being gobsmacked when I seen your time. What stands out as the
best result for you?

I think that 50 in 93 seemed to be unbelievable in terms of winning margin but if you look at the margin from domestic riders and world level then there can be 4 or 5 minutes of difference to the winning time. Also I had developed my training and preparation for that distance in terms of fluid and glycogen. I knew how to train without food and just water and had trained my glycogen system. A lot of riders nowadays are always eating and using energy drinks so there own glycogen and energy systems are not being stressed and therefore improved. That morning I had a couple of slices of toast and over a litre of water just on the line. The best result for my own satisfaction was in 1997 when I used a standard tri position and did mid 18 on a flat out and back course for 10 miles and won the British tt champs the next day with same set up because that was the only time that it could be considered that it was purely an athletic performance

BP: I noticed a commemorative watch launched this month in your honour! Had you
any input in the design?

The Hour watch was designed by me and Mr. Jones in about equal measure. I certainly installed the words.

BP: We saw your time trial bike from last year and you are still innovating, What’s next?

I don’t do much innovating on bikes since it is a dead end route now. I have a book of ideas which some day I might apply for patent but to be honest in today’s climate it is a quick way to lose money. I just do it for fun. I can’t stand to see bad design.

BP: Why didn’t you dope?

I didn’t dope since it is cheating.

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