Obree successful in breaking world prone speed record
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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Obree successful in breaking world prone speed record

by Shane Stokes at 9:43 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Former hour record holder to retire from speed attempts after one final effort today

Graeme ObreeAlthough his hopes of breaking the 100 mph barrier proved a long way off the mark, Graeme Obree’s two year project to set a new world record was successful yesterday when the Scotsman went faster than the previous best for the prone category.

Obree was using the chest downwards [prone] position, and using his self-designed and constructed ‘Beastie’ bike – at the World Human Speed Championships at Battle Mountain, Nevada.

Obree had previously set a speed of 52.9 miles per hour, but after two unsuccessful runs yesterday – where his bike toppled over soon after starting – a third attempt proved far better and he clocked a speed of 56.62 miles per hour.

Obree was elated at the result, not least because the design of his machine wasn’t as successful as he had originally expected.

“The last week has been a bit stressful. The Beastie has been 20mph off her pace and I’ve spoken to competitors with backgrounds in aerodynamics about why it hasn’t gone quicker,” he said, according to the Daily Record.

“Everyone has been too polite to tell me the shape’s a piece of s***. Eventually, they let on. The mechanics of the bike are good but there are problems with the skin casing and the way the air flows over it.”

Obree made most of the bike at home in his kitchen, although he had assistance in creating the aerodynamic shell which encased it. He said that he was unlikely to return next year, stating that the machine would require a complete reconstruction and he felt he had already put enough time into it.

He will aim for one more record today, with the University of Toronto team offering him the chance to use their Vortex recumbent bike today. It uses a standard recumbent position rather than the prone setup, and Obree will target the British mark of 67.4mph set by Ron English in 2002.

The absolute speed record is Sam Whittingham’s 2009 record of 82.9mph, set at the same Battle Mountain location.

Long history of record breaking and lateral thinking:

In the 1990s Obree was famed both for his time trial ability and also his capacity to think outside the box. He pioneered an aerodynamic position using upturned handlebars, with his elbows tucked under his chest, and riding a peculiarly designed bike nicknamed Old Faithful. He successfully beat Francesco Moser’s long-standing world hour record on July 17th 1993.

Despite having failed in his attempt the day before, Obree tried again less than 24 hours later, riding 51.596 kilometres to beat Moser's record of 51.151 kilometres by 445 metres.

This mark was beaten by English rider Chris Boardman on July 23rd. He clocked a distance of 52.270 kilometres using a more standard position.

However after the UCI banned his tuck, Obree went back to the drawing board and pioneered the so-called ‘Superman’ position, where his arms were fully extended in front of him.

This proved to be even faster and he took the record again on 19 April 1994, riding 52.713 kilometres on the Bordeaux velodrome.

Obree also took individual pursuit world championship titles in 1993 and 1995. He secured a pro contract to race with the Le Groupement team in 1996 but didn’t turn up at a team appointment and was fired. He said afterwards that he was disillusioned as he had realised he would have to take doping products as part of the team.

He made clear his opposition to performance enhancing drugs and said he didn’t want to race professionally as a result. This led to criticism by the then-UCI President Hein Verbruggen, who said "I find it cowardly, there is no other word."

Verbruggen also criticised others who spoke out against doping, including Paul Kimmage and the Frenchman Giles Delion.

The Festina Affair in 1998 proved that all three were correct, and that Verbruggen’s insistence that there was not a problem was false.

Now 47 years of age, he has indicated that his current record attempt is his final competitive outing. This morning’s attempt on the standard recumbent record will likely be the last time he aims to set a world mark, with Obree saying he wants to simply ride to enjoy the bike from this point on.


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