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17 October 2014

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Graeme Obree: Homegrown Hero

Graeme Obree

© Gordon Cairns

The career of Scotland's two-time world hour record holder Graeme Obree has become inextricably linked with a certain household appliance, which deflects from his incredible achievements. Only a handful of cyclists have ever broken the hour record but Obree's public image has been reduced to that of an eccentric sportsman rather than as a man who battled against the odds to reach the pinnacle of his sport.

For a talented amateur from a cycling backwater to break the world hour record in 1994 is simply incredible. Eddy Merckx, probably the best cyclist the world has ever seen, broke the record in 1972 and promptly said "Never again", such was the pain he endured. For Obree to break the record on a bike he built himself beggars belief.

Obree himself said: "My biggest regret of my career is mentioning to a journalist that there was a bit from a washing machine in my bike.

"Now forever I will be remembered as the washing machine guy."

Obree admits that the washing machine connection also affected his chances of earning a big sponsorship deal.

He added: "A good sponsor was not going to go with an athlete associated with a bike built from bric-a-brac."

However, with the distance of ten years, Obree's career is being re-assessed. His very candid best- selling autobiography starkly outlined his external battles against authority and his internal battles to reach the top. Now Obree's career has become an inspiration for Scotland's new track cycling stars Craig McLean and Chris Hoy.

Chris Hoy said: "I found Graeme Obree to be an inspirational figure when I was just starting out.

"His life is like a Hollywood film, but one that you would find unbelievable if you watched it in the cinema."

Obree is gratified by the respect he has earned from the Olympic champion.

Obree said: "For someone who has achieved what Chris has, to consider me an inspiration is a real accolade."

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