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Editor’s Note: This interview is courtesy of The Aftermarket.
Graeme Obree is one of the great enigmas of the cycling world. He has consistently looked to further the design and performance of the bicycle, normally from the humble workshop of his kitchen, and he is an ambassador for all that is great about cycling and craft. From his two hour records in the 1990s to his 2013 attempt at the human powered land speed record (HPVA) in Battle Mountain, Obree is obsessed with pushing the boundaries of a bicycle.
In 2013 at Battle Mountain, Graeme failed to break the overall record, which was taken by Sebastiaan Bowier who recorded a speed of 83.13mph in his Vortex 3. The previous record of 82.819mph was set by Canadian Sam Whittingham in 2009, but Graeme did set a new world speed record for cycling in the prone position, riding 56.62mph through the 200m speed trap to take the record. But having learned a lot from his experience, Graeme is back, this time with more records in his sights and with a new role as builder and coach, with his son Jamie taking center stage as the engine this time around.
We sat down with the maverick maker and racer to chart the beginning of another chapter in the Obree story and find out just how he plans to take on the record in 2015. One thing you always know with Obree: anything is possible.
Nigel Brown: So, Graeme, what are you up to currently?
Graeme Obree: Well, I am just starting this next project with my son Jamie, to break the human powered world land speed record. Jamie was out in America with me and he was quite keen to have a go himself at breaking the record when we were there with the Beastie [the vehicle he used to attempt the record]. Because we thought, if it’s me or him, it doesn’t matter, as long as one of us breaks the record. But it couldn’t happen because of red tape and insurance, however, it got us thinking. While we were out there we learned so much about what it takes to break this record. And importantly, what you need to do.
Firstly, as much as my knowledge from the world of cycling transferred to the attempt, which was a guy in his kitchen building a bike and giving it his best shot, when you are against teams of 12-15 aerodynamicists and the pool of knowledge from years of working on trying to break the record, we realized we had a serious problem: “Why isn’t the Beastie going as quick as it should be?” Now, there is more of a camaraderie among everyone out there, so we managed to talk to a variety of aerodynamicists and ask them that very question, because according to our first principles, the Beastie should have been going faster.
They explained the shape doesn’t always react as per principles or theory. So, we went away and thought if I built it, but Jamie, who is built like a sprinter and can generate a greater power output than me was the engine, we would have a better chance of breaking the record. And so, the project began. We are coming back September 2015.
NB: So, will you be tweaking the Beastie or is this a fresh build?
GO: No, the Beastie has retired. We have started from scratch with a new build, so it will be a completely new bike and design.
NB: So, what is your approach to the Beastie Mark II?
GO: It’s going to be a whole lot simpler. In terms of design it needs to be as simple as it possibly can be. It’s basically going to be two wheels stabilized, one chainring, and one gear. Head first again with an aerodynamic shell, with the knowledge we have learned from the aerodynamicists, making sure we get that perfect this time. It’s interesting though, in terms of an engine, now we have Jamie. He has got a much better power output and therefore, more possibility to break this record than I do. He is a stone heavier [14 pounds] and his bottom half, in particular his legs are a proper sprint build — so he has the potential for a great high-end power output. It’s exactly what is suited to this type of event.
It’s a real family out there in the USA at Battle Mountain, in terms of the community trying to further the bicycle and break this record. Everyone talks and it is really a common goal that is shared, so everyone helps each other out with their bikes. There is a sense of common purpose and how fast we can get people to go on a bike. That is what it’s all about. We were chatting away to an aerodynamicist, and he was saying that the Beastie would have been so much faster if we had looked at the shell in greater detail with an expert’s eyes. To be honest, everything about my last attempt was a little LastMinute.com. The material wasn’t good enough and I didn’t have the facilities to test or tweak materials. Plus I had major surgery just before going and our testing period out there didn’t really go to plan. So, it was a steep learning curve if I’m honest.
NB: So, the build.
GO: It’s three old bikes. Great quality steel. Joining them all together to basically create a dragster. Big wheels at the back, smaller at the front, one big chain ring, and stabilized. Get Jamie in it, push him down the road and then say, ‘Good luck son, I’ll see you at the end of the road!’ It can be his quest. So, there are three bikes with marker pen laying on my kitchen floor. I’ll scavenge for some other parts, get a standard chain set, the rear end is an old racing frame turned upside down so the bottom bracket is in the air. Basically the wheels are between Jamie’s legs, with a BMX wheel at the front. I want to keep it simple. I was thinking last time too much about gears and going up in the gears, but you really only need one gear because of the short length of the course and now with our new engine, Jamie, who has phenomenal strength in his legs — I mean he has broken cranks before! He likes breaking stuff with his power just to impress me. You need that top-end power and I don’t have that. I am more of an endurance athlete, but that is not the same as somebody who is a power merchant.
NB: So, you are up-cycling these bikes, Is the pedaling system similar to the Beastie?
GO: Well, that is the way I like to work. I learned so much in such a short space of time last year. As I mentioned, I started with all these gears and then I took them out. They were a source of unreliability and complications, plus you don’t need them. You just need a top gear, it’s the only one that really matters. When you are approaching the high speed you need to be in top gear anyway. What I found with Beastie was it doesn’t take long to drift up to a pace that you are in top gear, so you only need one gear.
NB: Are you personally training Jamie for the attempt?
GO: Jamie is proper into it. He goes to college which is 17 miles away, so he cycles there and back twice a week. He does other cycling, plus he is in the gym working on his weights. The thing is we have more time now. He can train the muscle groups that I didn’t train. The pull of the force on your legs is so much greater than what I expected it to be. The muscle in front of your shins is actually the most important. We are building for him a special type of boots that mean he can hang upside down. He has a bar across the top of his door and he is learning to pull himself back up, just to improve his pedaling technique.
Shimano Durace 9sp
Crankset : 170 mm 53/39
Handlebar : ITM Millennium
Saddle : Selle Italia
Seatpost : Shimano Durace
Rims : Front is Mavic Open 4CD on a Durace
Rear is Bontrager Race on Bontrager Hub
Includes: Lightweight bottle cages and a Cateye computer
Seat tube (Center to top) = 52 cm
Top tube (Center to Center) = 53 cm
Stand over height = 77 cm
MILAN (VN) — Italian second-division team, Neri Sottoli may sign Alessandro Petacchi for 2015, but it races into the new season with uncertainties linked to past doping cases.
The team fans love to hate may be back, and maybe with Petacchi, if all goes well for general manager Angelo Citracca. If not, he explained that the team has enough sponsorship and is not dependent on a Giro d’Italia invite to continue.
“Petacchi’s got experience, he’s a big name and he could help our new young under-23 sprinter who’s turning pro, Jakub Mareczko,” Citracca told VeloNews.
“Whether or not he’d help for the Giro d’Italia, that’s for the organizer to answer, but he’d help with any race invitation, not just the Giro, given his palmarès.”
Petacchi won the green jersey at the 2010 Tour de France. He joined Omega Pharma-Quick Step to help Mark Cavendish in 2013 and was not renewed at the end of this season. The Tuscan team could be the perfect landing spot for the 40-year-old Italian as his career winds down, but there are some issues for Citracca.
Citracca acknowledged that the team faces pressure from the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC) and the unknown when it comes to a Giro d’Italia wildcard invitation.
As a second-division team, it must ask for invitations to the big races like the Giro. The organizer automatically gives the first-division teams the right to race and hands out four (or possibly five in 2015) wildcard invitations to lower ranking professional continental teams.
Neri Sottoli — or Vini Fantini and Yellow Fluo as it was called — raced its home grand tour the last four years with success. However, its neon colors never looked as dark as when the 2013 edition saw two of its cyclists, Danilo Di Luca and Mauro Santambrogio, test positive for EPO.
It received an invitation to race again in 2014 from organizer RCS Sport who was making a nod to its Italian teams. This year, it won the Coppa Italia series of races, which gives it the front of the line spot to participate in the 2015 Giro, but doubts linger over its inclusion after Matteo Rabottini, the Italian who won a stage and the mountains jersey in 2012, tested positive for EPO in August.
“We don’t have any right to race the Giro. We won the cup, OK, but it all depends on RCS Sport. That cup win was great for us and our sponsors, but it does not give us the right to force our Giro participation,” Citracca continued.
“If the organizer says that we can’t race given our past doping cases, we’ll accept that and move forward because in 2014 they already invited us given everything that happened before and when everyone thought they wouldn’t do so. We’d accept it without making a fuss.”
Giro race director Mauro Vegni explained to Tutto Bici website this month that it is true the Coppa Italia-winning team gets the nod, but that only comes after it has checked all of the boxes.
“The team,” Vegni said, “is subject to the usual economic and ethics criteria and that gives us the ability to accept or to reject it despite winning the cup.”
RCS Sport is due to hand out the wildcard invitations sometime in January. It is expected to offer five — one more than normal — since only 17 and not 18 first-division teams are due to race the 2015 WorldTour.
Boiling in the background is the MPCC. The movement said in a press release this week that it did not appreciate how the team responded to Rabottini’s doping positive and warned a punishment could follow.
Citracca disagreed with its stance and said that he is pushing cycling’s governing body to unify the rules for all teams instead of having separate voluntary rules that some teams adhere to and others do not.
The rule change may come because UCI President Brian Cookson said last month that he wants to streamline the rules to avoid confusion for fans, which occurred for example when Lampre-Merida stopped Chris Horner from racing the Vuelta a España due to low cortisol levels.
“There’s no help with being a MPCC member, there are just requirements and no rights that come along with such membership. The rules are not clear, not respected equally.
“We joined because we are a pro team, if we are not in the MPCC, then we’ll have problems racing in certain races. You’re obliged in a sense to join. The UCI needs to look at that, if it is correct that the organizers are obliging teams to be part of an association to race. We are already paying a lot of money to the UCI for the passport and following strict financial guidelines, but then an association like MPCC decides if you can race?”
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With two routes of the three grand tours already confirmed, now all eyes turn to Spain.
The Vuelta a España, however, is waiting until January 10 to make its route announcement for the 70th edition.
The Vuelta is confirmed to start with five days of racing in and around Malaga in Spain’s sunny Andalucía region, coinciding with the peak holiday season in late August.
Vuelta director Javier Guillén confirmed the 2015 Vuelta will conclude once again in Madrid. This year, the race finished with four days of racing in Galicia, also a question of convenience for the world championships, which were held in nearby Ponferrada.
Speaking in an interview with the Spanish media outlet Cinco Días, Guillén said the Vuelta is planning something special for what will be the 80th anniversary for the Spanish tour.
“We want to include a lot of new mountaintop finales for 2015,” Guillén said. “Maybe we could announce that every summit finish will be on new climbs, but it’s still not finalized.”
There are rumors the race could dip into Portugal as well as include a return to the Basque Country in northern Spain.
Since the Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) took over the Vuelta in 2008, the Spanish tour has enjoyed a renaissance.
“We have our own personality,” he continued. “Explosive finals, shorter stages, new climbs, original stage starts. We have an important identity as a race.”
Vuelta officials also confirmed they will hold a women’s race to coincide with the final day of racing in Madrid.
Time bonuses, and the thrilling battle for the yellow jersey in the first week that come with them, are back in the Tour de France.
As part of a restructuring of the points competition, Tour officials reintroduced time bonuses for the first time since eliminating them for the 2008 edition. Finish-line bonuses of 10, 6, and 4 seconds will be in the offing in the opening nine days of racing, but do not apply to the stage 1 time trial nor the stage 9 team time trial. The remainder of the stages, dominated by the Pyrénées and Alps, will not see bonuses in play.
“We want to open up the race,” said Tour director Christian Prudhomme in Paris on Wednesday. “We want the race to be decided on any day of the Tour.”
It’s a compromise to appease the GC riders who argue that time bonuses, especially on mountaintop finishes, can be inherently unfair and can dramatically alter the overall standings. The logic being that a rider with a fast finishing kick atop a brutal climb doesn’t deserve to gain an invaluable 10 seconds (or more, when some bonuses can be as much as 20 seconds) by simply stabbing their bikes across the line first.
By limiting the time bonuses to the first nine stages, the Tour is looking for a middle ground. It wants to protect the integrity of the GC battle, but open up the typically exciting battle for the yellow jersey among the sprinters.
The gateway to the prized maillot jaune was slammed shut, at least to the sprinters, after the 2007 Tour when Tour director Christian Prudhomme introduced the “true time” policy of eliminating time bonuses.
Tour officials rationalized that time bonuses unfairly altered the GC and confused fans. But in practice, the time bonus ban blotted out one of the most interesting battles during the entire Tour: the fight for the yellow jersey among the sprinters.
Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), who rose to prominence in the sprints just as ASO rolled back the time bonuses, has never worn the yellow jersey. Neither have sprinters over the last half decade, such as André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol).
In 2012, for example, Fabian Cancellara won the opening prologue, and held the yellow jersey uncontested for a week, before Bradley Wiggins overtook the lead in the first of two time trials. Wiggins held it all the way to Paris, giving the Tour just two yellow jerseys throughout three weeks of racing — hardly palpating stuff to excite fans, teams, riders, or media. In sharp contrast, five riders held yellow in the first week alone in 2006.
Of course, time bonuses can occasionally decide the outcome in the final GC of a grand tour. In the 2011 Vuelta a España, Juanjo Cobo beat the ascendant Chris Froome by 13 seconds. Take away Cobo’s time bonuses, and Froome would have won by 19 seconds. In the 2008 Vuelta, Alberto Contador beat then-teammate Levi Leipheimer by 46 seconds, but erase the bonuses, and the pair would have finished in Madrid tied on time.
Most agree, however, that time bonuses will help liven up the first half of the Tour.
By the 1990s, the Tour settled into a familiar pattern, with a short opening prologue followed by a week of relatively flat stages that favored the fast-twitch sprinters. That gave riders such as Robbie McEwen, Erik Zabel, and Mario Cipollini the chance to finish close in the prologue, win a stage or two, and they could end up in the yellow jersey. Intra-stage time bonuses — of 6, 4, and 2 seconds — only added to the drama. Those apparently have not been reintroduced for 2015.
Just how much the return of the time bonuses will play on the yellow jersey remains to be seen. The opening day time trial, at nearly 14km, will create major differences, and it could prove difficult to wrestle away the yellow jersey if such see riders such as Tony Martin (Omega Pharma) or Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) win the stage, and take substantial time with it.
On top of that, the opening week is hardly a string of boring sprint stages, so it’s unlikely that pure sprinters such as Cavendish or Marcel Kittel (Giant) will be cherry-picking time bonuses at their whim.
Stage 2 could well end in a mass sprint, but stage 3 ends atop the Mur de Huy, the challenging wall featured each year in Flèche-Wallonne, hardly sprinter’s country. Stage 4 takes the peloton once again over the treacherous cobbles, which saw the peloton crumble over the punishing pavé. Any sprinters who survive those landmines will face a hard battle to win back bonuses on equally sinuous terrain across Brittany before a punchy finale in stage 8 and the team time trial on stage 9.
Instead, the bonuses could play into the hands of the likes of Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge), Michel Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), or even Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing). Those are riders who could have a strong time trial to stay close, and then thrive in the classics-style racing of the first week.
So what to expect? No matter how it plays out, the return of the time bonuses will add an additional layer of drama and intrigue to the first week of racing, without taking anything away from the true fight for the yellow jersey. In fact, their presence will give GC riders even more motivation to battle for stage wins in the first week.
Rather than seeing just two riders in the yellow jersey throughout the entire Tour, like in 2012, the opening nine days of racing of the 2015 Tour could see three or four riders take yellow, perhaps even a few more.
In another significant change, the Tour has reshuffled the points competition in what could be viewed as the “anti-Sagan” rule change. Like time bonuses, the new points rules will apply to the first nine stages only.
In 2014, Sagan won his third consecutive points jersey without winning a stage. By consistently placing in the top-5, Sagan picked up points to coast relatively unchallenged into his third green jersey. Under new rules introduced for 2015, that feat could prove more difficult, with a new rule structure favoring stage winners.
“We want to give more of a bonus for those who win,” Prudhomme said Wednesday.
Under new rules, a stage win will be worth 50 points, compared to 45 under old rules. The gap to second-place is significant, with just 30 points to the runner-up, compared to 35 under former rules. Here are new points for the top-15 — 50, 30, 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 — compared to the former top-15: 45, 35, 30, 26, 22, 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2. Those numbers will only put more pressure on green jersey candidates to win.
The post Tour de France resurrects time bonuses, reshuffles points competition appeared first on VeloNews.com.