Friday, June 5, 2009

Graeme Obree: Another World Hour Record?

And at age 43, no less:

"I don't think that you're physically hampered from winning at the highest level just because of age. To diminish yourself just in terms of age isn't justified. I don't think you can use it as an excuse, not if you've kept it going."
This would be like Joan Benoit-Samuelson doing the Olympic marathon trials last year: they don't have a hope in hell of reaching that goal, but you gotta love their spirit.

For those of you not familiar with Obree, he's a Scottish rider who dueled with Brit Chris Boardman back in the 90s for the title of the fastest man on two wheels. The UCI, in its infinite idiocy, eventually threw out all of their records because they used extreme aerodynamics of both bike and riding position to accomplish their goals (the UCI is the most backwards-looking governing body in sport, but that's another rant).

Obree famously fought depression, including two suicide attempts (if my memory serves), and eventually had his story done as a book and a movie called The Flying Scotsman. And now he wants to go for the record again, at age 43. To give some idea of how ridiculous this seemingly innocent feat is, this is the Bicycling Magazine piece on him from a few years ago. It's no longer on the magazine's archive site, but can be found in this volume:
"To ride for an hour at faster than 30 miles per hour puts strain on the body that few people ever experience. A human heart can beat only so rapidly before it fails; most of us can get within 10 beats or so of that rate for a few minutes before we have to cease whatever we're doing. Obree would spend an hour there. He would produce an enormous amount of pure energy as he sped around the track, but fully three-quarters of it would burn off not as propulsion but as heat--the by-product of his effort. At rest, while the core of the human body thrums along at 98.6 degrees, skin temperature stays at about 95. Even with intense exercise, it usually doesn't get above 100. During the Race of Truth, Obree's skin would burn at close to 107. In one hour, he would burn about 1,800 calories--about three-quarters of a human's average for an entire day."
He also built the bike himself, famously using parts from his washing machine (mostly bearings, I think) And he's built his newest rig, which conforms to UCI regulations for this event, himself. Look at this gear ratio:
For those of you wondering, it's a 67x13 ratio, 138 inches, if you're scoring at home. Good thing it'll be on a track.

Spin easy, friends.

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