Category Archives: Riders

Obree the innovator: predecessors to Old Faithful

On a recent This Week In Cycling History podcast, John Galloway and Cilian Kelly went off on a tangent (as they sometimes do) musing over the origins of Graeme Obree’s aero tuck position, used to break Francesco Moser’s hour record on his Old Faithful’ bike in 1993.

Obree was an innovator, rethinking his position on the bike and the bike itself,  achieving aerodynamic gains by  going back to first principles and bringing a ‘beginner’s mind’ to bike engineering. I’ve heard him speak about this in person several times – he would look at his bike and think (or maybe say out loud) ‘what if I had never seen a bike before – what would I do differently?’

Early frame innovations

Obree could weld his own frames and would design  Found on Bob Reid’s homage to the Flying Scot bicycle, the picture below shows some of the genesis of his frame innovations:

One predecessor of ‘old faithful’ was this machine he built and seen here at a road race in Carluke in 1987. The short back end prevented Graeme from using double chain-rings and the frame has a brazed-on chain guide.

Obree custom frame 1987

You can read about Obree’s story in his own words in ‘The Flying Scotsman’

The Flying Scotsman
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RIP Ian Steel

I was sad to read Will Fotheringham’s obituary of Ian Steel yesterday. Ian died last week on 20th October aged 83.

Ian won the Tour of Britain in 1951, the Peace Race in 1952 and rode the Tour de France in 1955 among many other achievements. He was one of Scotland’s and Britain’s greats.

Despite a relatively short career he kept an active interest in cycling – one of my previous posts included a photo of him being presented with a Glasgow United jersey – one of his former clubs.

ian steel cyclist

Cyclist Ian Steel in Glasgow United jersey March 2011

I had heard that writer Richard Moore had been in touch with him recently and hope there are a few more stories to come out of that – Richard has an obituary in the Scotsman.

Tribute on Scottish Cycling

My other blog posts on Ian Steel.

Kyle Petrie, from the Basque to California and back

I spoke to 18 year old Kyle Petrie who has travelled to California to further his cycling.

You’re out in California training, riding and racing a bit – tell us where you are and what team you are with?
I’m living in Northern California in a town called Pleasanton. It’s a nice town and everything seems to be perfect, pristine and nice. The people are friendly there’s a massive connection of Scottish and English people here! The town is located near San Francisco and Oakland where I go to race, train and meet with my team – a shop team called CyclesFANATIC USA which is renowned in the Bay Area for its contribution to the sport and the great bikes!

Kyle Petrie Candlestick cross

How did the trip come about?
When I was in the Basque Country I knew I wanted to go somewhere for the winter. I asked friends for advice and California seemed the place to go. I feel I made the right decision – there is everything I need here: great training roads, extremely high level of riders, lots of group rides and tons of racing happening.

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Help kick start an Obree film

Recently I was lucky enough to be invited to see Richard Moore quiz Graeme Obree on his career at the Glasgow Film Theatre.

He was his usual eccentric yet inspirational self with several lines sticking in the memory and making you think again about the way you view things – which is his default way of looking at the world.

He talked about owning his bike shop and being in the comfort zone, as many of us often are, like a ball sitting on a flat surface. Sometimes something comes along to nudge that, and sets the ball off in a new direction.

Motivation and determination are key to his make-up: for example, he asked: would Moser (the previous hour record holder to Obree) have ‘chucked’ a training session in the snow, if he had had two punctures and frozen hands?

Being ‘willing to die’ and ‘getting the ‘last bit of toothpaste out of the tube’ were two ways of describing 100% effort needed to break a record that stuck in my mind.

During the evening, we watched a short rough cut of footage shot at Obree’s world speed record attempt in the USA. Read on to find out more of the background to his record attempt and Journey Pictures’ kickstarter campaign that will transform the thousands of hours of film into a documentary.

CSP_1760 - Copy

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Julien Simon, Saur-Sojasun

There are plenty of blogs that analyse the race better than I can, so something I have come to enjoy doing when writing about pro cycling is look around the edges at something different.

Montfort-sûr-Meu near the city of Rennes in Brittany is the hometown of 26 year old Tour debutant Julien Simon. It is just down the road from where I am staying for 3 weeks holiday. Simon was on my radar last year and it was nice to see he got selected for his first Tour de France. It gives me a good reason to follow one of the lesser known teams and riders in the race.

He is leading the French domestic race series, similar to the Premier Calendar, but with a scoring system that lasts the whole season. He also won two stages of the Tour of Catalonia and is breaking through to a new chapter in his career with new found confidence in his ability.

image: David Flores

Julien Simon
Image: Laurie Beylier
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Manning up not getting down: Stuart Potter’s Biggest Journey

Recently I published a piece on Stuart Potter’s Biggest Journey, a 400 mile ride which he is undertaking to raise awareness of mental health issues, after coming to terms with the fact he suffered from depression.

I asked him some more questions about it, as well as some more details to do with his depression and cycling specifically.

I was diagnosed with depression in Feb 2011 after suffering for a few months with extreme lows, irritability, anxiety and sometimes anger. The trigger for me going to get help was feeling unable to cope with my 3 year old girl and on a number of occasions losing my temper with her and I was terrified of frightening her… this caused a fair few problems at home with my wife and I too. It was my wife that knew something was wrong and insisted I go see my GP. Following the diagnoses I began taking medication, though I was very reluctant at first, and also seeing a private therapist. I’m still benefiting from both of these forms of help.


On further investigation, mostly through talking with my therapist, it seems that I’ve battled with this for a long time – most of it seems to stem back to a cycling accident I had when I was 17 (I’m now 35). I was hit by a truck and, though was lucky to get away with only minor physical injury, I had server shock for a number of weeks afterwards and suffered huge mood swings and panic attacks in the following months before being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I went through counselling for this up to taking my A-Levels before leaving home to go to University. This is when the biggest problems seemed to set in.
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Andy MacLeod: Torch Bearer

Two of my most rewarding blog pieces from last year charted Andy Macleod’s story from MTB and trials enthusiast through his ordeal to his ‘comeback‘ with more zest than a Lapierre carbon all-mountain bike.

Andy had to keep it under wraps for a while but his nomination to carry the flame was successful and he will be proudly running on his carbon/titanium leg the Olympic flame in Forfar on 12 June. Big well done to Andy.

He is the master at throwing himself at a challenge, focusing on the positives and overcoming adversity. A quote from his facebook page:
“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one”
― Bruce Lee

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Jimmy Fraser, Scottish and American champ

Johnstone Wheelers Race

Here’s a great piece of trivia and history via Robert Baird, a connoisseur of Scottish cycling history.

The photo above shows Chryston Wheelers riders (l/r) Tommy Clarke, Jimmy Fraser and Tom Jardine at the start of a race promoted by the Johnstone Wheelers. Jimmy Fraser emigrated to America and won the American over-45 road racing championship in 1991. He now lives in Conneticut and has the same championship jersey as Lance Armstrong and George Hincapie. The photo comes from Tom Jardine himself.

There’s a small image found elsewhere on the net of Jimmy in his US National Champion’s jersey.

He also won the Scottish Road Race championship at Kilmarnock in the mid 70s while home on holiday. That must be the only person to have won national titles in the USA and Scotland – I wonder how many other riders have won national jerseys in more than one country? Cillian Kelly of The Irish Peloton and This Week in Cycling History would be the man for that stat.
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Alex Coutts, Team RTS Racing

Scottish rider Alex Coutts is riding the 2012 season with RTS Racing in the far east and often with this blog, posting a piece is a case of finding out about a rider, past or present, and sharing it with the readers. Alex is one who I did not know much about before now.

Alex riding grass track alongside Evan Oliphant on a foray back home.
image: Martin Steele

The Veloveritas site, formerly Veloresults has been on the case with an interview in 2010, where I learnt he has been a pro with Continental teams since 2002.

He has spent time racing in Belgium, France and Italy, most recently for Giant Kenda Pro Cycling – you can read some of his diaries going back through the past few years on a blog section of his shop site. Last year he opened a cycle shop in Burntisland in Fife.

This year he is with RTS Racing– his new team is sponsored by RTS Carbon, a frameset and wheel manufacturer established in Spain in 2005, but which has a far-eastern focus and is owned by Giant Asia’s manager. The company sells its own frames and bikes, made in the same factory as Giant.

He rode the Tour de Langkawi, a 10-day, UCI 2.HC stage race in Malaysia. With RTS Racing being a Tiawanese team, this is clearly a big goal for them.

Although there is only one major climbing stage, the day to Genting Highlands, the Tour’s length at 10 stages, the tropical heat and the level of competition make this a tough race.

As of today, Alex was 44th on GC at 15 minutes, with his Australian teammate Jai Crawford 13th at 5 minutes. The top 2 spots are occupied by Jose Serpa and Jose Rujano, a Colombian and a Venezuaelan for the Androni Giocattoli team.

Yesterday teammate Chin Lung Huang got into a break of 5, who were only allowed a short lead by Farnese Vini, for whom Andrea Guardini leads the points classification, and it came down to a sprint finish which seems customary for this race.

The team’s other events are in the Middle East and Far East with the Tours of Qinghai Lake (UCI 2.HC) and Tour of China (UCI 2.1) stage races coming in July and September.

Alex also started the Tour of Oman, one of the tune-up races for the Spring Classics, which sees lots of World Tour riders sharpening up the legs for Belgium and Northern France. He completed the 6-stage race 59th on GC at 10 minutes. It was won by Slovakian Peter Velits of Omega Pharma-Quickstep, and the race saw sprint duels between Greipel, Kittel and Sagan, who won the points overall.

Veloveritas/Veloresults have the professionally produced pieces if you want to read up on Alex- writers Martin Williamson, Ed Hood and Al Hamilton have some good pieces here:
Riding with Flanders- 2007

In Asia- 2008

Tour of Thailand winner