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The incredible story of Graeme Obree, 'The Flying Scottish'

The incredible story of Graeme Obree, 'The Flying Scottish'

Can you an amateur cyclist beat the record of the time and win two gold medals in the persecution cycling World Cups with a bicycle made from pieces of a washing machine? Surprising as it may seem, that was what he achieved in the 1990s Graeme Obree, nicknamed 'The Flying Scottish'. This is his story. Douglas Graeme Obree was an amateur cyclist who lived in Scotland, where he ran a bicycle shop from which he was dedicated to manufacturing paintings in a totally customized way. His obsession was to design the most efficient picture in aerodynamic terms. Naturally, he did not have in his favor tunnels of the wind, no computer simulations or performed complex equations to calculate the resistance of the air. He was based on his own experience and the trial and error tests he performed with the bicycle with which he participated in counterreloj tests and amateur careers. By the way, that in the first race in which he participated he did it equipped with an anorak and the boots he used in his day to day. In addition, he was wrong to think that the exit and finish line were the same and when he barely had 100 meters left to finish the test, he got out of the bicycle thinking that he had already finished. When he was already changing clothes to take a shower, the commissioners of the race ran to tell him that the finish line was a few meters later, so he had to get on the bike again and finish the test. Graeme Obree

THE GREAT IDEA: Beat the record of the hour

In 1993, given the bad economic results of his store, he decided that his next challenge to earn money would be nothing but try to beat the time record. An amateur cyclist, without known international records, wanting to establish a new world record! At that time the record of the time had been in the hands of the Italian Francesco Moser, who in 1984 had exceeded the previous registry, whose owner was nothing less than Eddy Merckx. When Moser established the record of the time, he had a sensational record:
  • 3 podiums in the World Cycling World Cup, including the rainbow in 1977
  • 1 gold medal and another silver medal in the cycling World Cups on the track, in the individual persecution modality
  • 1 Tour of Italy (the 1984, the same year in which he beat the record of the hour)
  • 3 Paris-Roubaix
  • 2 Lombardy turns
  • 1 Milan-San Remo (also in 1984)
  • 1 Vallea arrow
  • 4 times winner of regularity in the Tour of Italy
Graeme Obree, however, was an absolute unknown not only among the professionals and members of the UCI, but even among fans. Even so, his effort was a signature: he was determined to beat a new record of the hour.

Old Faithful: The bicycle with washing machine pieces

To prepare his assault on the record, OBREE began to design a new bicycle box. Despite not having a team of engineers behind or a bicycle manufacturer that sponsored him, he began to make changes in the picture from his sensations in training. Its objective was to achieve the most aerodynamic posture possible above the bicycle. One day, observing the centrifugation of the laundry, it occurred to him that putting the bearages of the washing machine to his bicycle could obtain a better performance. Graeme Obree Display at The Riverside Museum And he did so. Another innovations of its design was the disposition of the handlebar. He used a very short one. He also set the sneakers to the pedals and narrowed the pedalier so that the connecting rods were as close to the possible box. But his main innovation was in the position he adopted on the bicycle. Obree noticed that the skiers bent their elbows and hit them very close to the chest when they descended at full speed. From there he released the idea called the position "The Tuck" (the shrunk). The flying Scottish hunched over the handlebar, with completely folded arms and placed the chest as close to the handlebar as possible. As strange (and dangerous) that it was the posture, the truth is that thanks to it it managed to reduce aerodynamic resistance by about 15 percent. In addition, to facilitate pedaling in that position, it eliminated the horizontal bar of the painting. Thus he prevented the legs from colliding with her. https://youtu.be/oJ9H0INZ2_s

Record to the second attempt

On July 16, 1993, Graeme Obree was launched by the La Hora record at Vikingskipet velodrome, in Hamar, Norway. However, it stayed just under 1 kilometers to get it. Despite failing, as the velodrome had rented for 24 hours, he decided that the next day he would try to try. Two attempts to beat the time record in less than a day! To recover from fatigue, he made the decision to drink water in huge amounts and stretch every two hours -mainly because every two hours he had to go to the bathroom due to excess liquid in the body. With hardly any sleeping during the night, at 8:00 am the next day his second attempt began. And, this time, he got it. Graeme Obree beat the time record by establishing a record of 51 kilometers and 596 meters. Moser's previous brand was 51 kilometers and 151 meters. https://youtu.be/ml6KT5MArC8

The duel with Chris Boardman

Despite the tremendous expectation generated by Obree's deed, the truth is that joy lasted little. Just a few days later, on July 23, 1993, his compatriot Chris Boardman took his record for 674 meters in the Bordeaux velodrome. Boardman was one of the best sprinters in the world, nothing less than the Olympic persecution champion after winning the gold medal at the Barcelona Olympic Games the previous year. In addition, he had a great support from his sponsors, which allowed him to launch the time record with a bicycle with monocasco carbon box, also carbon wheels and counterreloj couples specially designed for the occasion. But the 'flying Scottish' had not yet said the last word. That same year he participated in the World Cycling World Championship, where Chris Boardman was going to face the individual persecution modality. Could that amateur cyclist with his quirky bicycle defeat the Olympic champion and one of the best specialists in the world in counterreloj tests? Yes, he did. Graeme Obree won Boardman and proclaimed himself champion of the persecution.

New record of time and controversy with the ICU

In less than 6 months Obree had gone from being a complete stranger to beat Moser's record that had been intact and win the archiris of cycling on track for 9 years. But his deed was not going to stay there. In April 1994, a new assault on the time record began. This time the attempt would take place in the Velodrome of Bordeaux, the same where in July 1993 Chris Boardman had taken his deed. And he succeeded, establishing a mark of 52 kilometers and 713 meters, which would be beaten a few months later by Miguel Induráin. In addition, his innovative posture on the bicycle began to arouse the interest of other cyclists. In January 1994 Francesco Moser, at 42, tried to beat the La Hora record at the México Velodrome using the same work position. He did not get it, but made a record of 51 kilometers and 840 meters. https://youtu.be/H3mtbq62NUc At that time, the International Cycling Union worried him that the technological innovations that were reaching cycling disproportionate the records disproportionately. So the top world cycling agency decided to ban Old Faithful and the use of any bicycle that required a position such as that of The Tuck. This decision was made the same day that the world of cycling world on the 1994 track began. Obree refused to comply with the UCI measure and was disqualified, so he could not defend his title.

The second World Cup by making the Superman

However, the 'flying Scottish' did not give up. Converted into a professional cyclist, he dedicated himself to preparing his participation in the following World Cup, that of 1995. And, once again, in his efforts to seek a posture as aerodynamics as possible, he found another innovative position. In this case, instead of pasteing the handlebar to the chest with folded arms, what he did was just the opposite: stretching them by placing the handlebar as far as possible from the steering tube. [captGRAME OBREE'S OLD FAithFull Bike This is the bicycle with which the Scotsman Graeme Obree beat the time record in 1993 (image credits: Shaun Murphy, Flickr, Creative Commons license)[/caption] With this position, which became known as Superman, he won the 1995 World Cup. However, the UCI prohibited the use of this position by claiming security motifs for cyclists. After that he did not participate again in any World Cup, although he still had time to conquer the British championship of the 25 miles in 1996 and to proclaim himself British champion of counterreloj in 1997. He also had a brief step through the international squad as a professional cyclist of the French team of Le Groupement. However, he was dismissed before even starting the season for "lack of professionalism", since he did not come with the team.

The ICU pardon

Graeme Obree is one of the most fascinating adventures in cycling history. How a totally amateur cyclist, with a bicycle built by himself, established an entire record of the time and became a double world champion beating one of the greatest specialists of the distance of his time. His famous Old Faithful bicycle is currently at the National Museum of Scotland, in Edinburgh. And, although the ICU dispossessed him of his international titles for the controversial positions he used on his bicycle, he finally returned to restore them in May 2014. In 2006 his life was taken to the cinema through The movie The Scottish FlyingA, played by Johny Lee Miller. If you have not seen it, we strongly recommend that you see it. https://youtu.be/h-ukBspc9D0 (Main image: Graeme Obree - Poetry in Motion at 30 mph CC -BY -SA/2.0 -© Thomas Nugent - Geograph.org.uk/p/2569075)
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