I watched The Flying Scotsman recently and the movie took my breath away. I hung on to the rented DVD to show my kakis tonight.
Graeme Obree was an out of work amateur cyclist who realised he was a world class athlete when fellow-Brit Chris Boardman, whom he occasionally beat in races, returned from the 1992 summer olympics with a gold medal.
So he decides to tackle the world hour record. With his 70-pound sterling home-made bike, no mechanic, doctor, nutritionist or any the usual regalia of a support team, Obree breaks the world hour record in cycling in his unique riding style in 1993.
He goes on to win the world 4km sprint title, and these are the toughest and most demanding races in cycling, whose winners read like a who’s who in cycling. Except for this out of work amateur.
And he does all this in spite of, or perhaps even because of, a bipolar disorder (manic depression).
The international cycling federation (UCI) tries to stifle this unorthodox champion instead of celebrating his achievements and the extent of what they do reaches the point of passing rules the night before a world competition in order to disqualify his riding style and bicycle. However, he comes back with a new riding style that others begin to emulate before UCI bans that as well.
In later years he is dropped two days after joining a professional French cycling team, declining to take performance-enhancing drugs, a rampant issue in the sport even then.
The film glosses over the technical background to his cycling methods and and frank discussion about his depression, but as he says himself, that’s in his autobiography. I’ve ordered that since from an Amazon reseller along with the DVD.
His wife kept him going through the bad times and encouraged his record breaking feats. In the end he realises he’d rather be with her and their kids.
Links about Grame Obree, the Flying Scotsman on magnolia: ma.gnolia.com/people/sivasothi/tags/flyingscotsman – includes articles and youtube video links to “The Battle of the Bikes.”