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by Shane Stokes
September 19, 2014
Having spent much of his life chasing national and international records in cycling, including two successful attempts on the world hour record, Grame Obree has decided on a rather different focus next year: passing the baton by helping his son to break one of his records.
On September 13 of last year Obree broke the world prone cycling record at the Human Powered Speed Championships in Battle Mountain, Nevada. Lying head forward, face down in an aerodynamically-shaped surrounding, he reached a speed of 56.62 miles per hour.
The record was not surpassed at the recent 2014 championships in the same location but he’s willing to do what he can to help another person take it: his 20 year old son Jamie Obree.
“I still hold the world prone record, but I realise I could have done so much better,” Obree told CyclingTips this week. “My boy Jamie is stepping up next year for the record if he can get sponsorship.
“He was dead keen to ride it the first time around, he even got first go [in Obree’s ‘Beastie’ human powered vehicle’. But I knew it was so unstable as a bike. It was just so dangerous that, with the insurance and everything else, he never got his chance.
“Speaking to the experts there, to all the teams from universities with real proper backing and knowledge, we realised how much the aerodynamics could have be better. He said, ‘dad, we can do this again.’
“I said, ‘yes we can, we can do it better, but you’ll be riding it.’ So he will be attacking his old man’s record next September. He might even break the record on my birthday, depending on the dates. We have started the bike, are made good progress and Jamie is in serious training. So we are on the way for it.”
Obree is famed for having designed and made the bikes he set the world hour record on in the 1990s; he used the same machines to win two world pursuit championships. He combined his self-taught knowledge of engineering with an instinct for finding the most aerodynamic positions possible, coming up with his famed praying mantis and superman setups.
Two decades later, he used that same knowledge to build the human powered vehicle he took the world prone record with in September 2013.
However he admits that the design could have been better, and is determined to improve upon that.
“We are going to get help from somebody who builds loads and loads and loads of shells. That is where I fell down before, on the whole aerodynamic quality of the shell which I built in my own place. I had never built a shell before and so it wasn’t as good as it could have been,” he said.
“This time it needs to be much more stable than it was before. We will also talk to that expert on shell aerodynamics.”
He is confident that the machine will be faster, but so too the athlete. “Jamie should have much more top end power because he is much more squat and more built [than Obree was],” he said. “He should be able to put out better top end power for a minute. He is more of a power rider than I was, so I would say he will go quicker than ever.
“It is a good excuse to go and hang out in America for your 50th birthday, to watch your boy break the world record. I think he can do it.”
Obree spoke at length this week about the world hour record attempt by Jens Voigt. He predicted the German will beat the existing mark set by the Czech rider Ondrej Sosenka on July 19, 2005 in Moscow, saying that the bid would reinvigorate the record and encourage others to also aim for it.
Obree said that he would welcome a new holder as Sosenka failed a doping test during his career. “It gives a credibility in that other people will be able to attack a valid record set by a respected rider. It brings the record alive again.”
He also said that welcomed the requirement that all riders aiming for the record are part of the UCI’s biological passport, but called on those making attempts to undertake additional measures.
“I would like to see them do the biological passport, but then you get blood stored,” he said. “I think it should be stored for ten years or 20 years or something like that, then tested by state of the art methods to reconfirm the fact that was valid.”
Perhaps unaware that the bio-passport requirement would make a bid by any amateurs very difficult to do, Obree said that he considered having a go himself.
“I was very tempted to attack the hour record. I trained all winter thinking ‘I can have this,’” he revealed. “I only recently changed my mind. I was driven by the fact that I wished I had my blood frozen. I didn’t have my blood frozen at the time, but I should have done.
“It was almost to prove that I was the one who never joined the road scene, never did all that nonsense. Then I thought, ‘you know what, you are nearly 50 and it is over. Let the big boys get on with their own attempts.’”
Also see: Obree on the hour record: “It is a whole phenomenon rebooted” [link]