Battle Mountain: Graeme Obree's Story


Battle Mountain: Graeme Obree's Story

Documentary following Scottish cyclist Graeme Obree's 2013 attempt to challenge the world land speed record at Nevada's Battle Mountain.


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Transcript


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This programme contains some strong language

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If you're a tiger, among animals,

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you might be a slightly ageing tiger,

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slightly less trained-than-you-could-be tiger,

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but you're still a tiger.

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The thing is, the stopwatch doesn't care what age you are.

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And the power meter doesn't care what age you are.

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That speed trap doesn't care what age you are.

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And I know I've got the ability for it.

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That's how I won the World Pursuit Championships.

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It's a great wee retirement village here, eh?

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This is great - seeing you all from so many different countries,

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and travelling so far to be here to do this. It's really exciting.

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We're just thrilled to have y'all here.

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I hope y'all have a really good week,

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and you all go as fast as you want to be going.

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APPLAUSE AND CHEERING

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Human-powered vehicle - it seems a niche part of the sport.

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The rules are, it's human-powered.

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It can be arm-powered, leg-powered...

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No stored energy. And this record involves basically top-end speed.

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I want to go and break the world land speed record

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on a bike that I mainly build myself.

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When you actually stop and think about doing 83mph

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with your nose roughly 60cm from the ground,

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with a bicycle wheel for steerage,

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you think, that's quite exciting, that is - bring it on!

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10cm out of there...

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I want it to be less, but I'm working to what I know

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I can achieve within the laws of engineering and physics right now.

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Oh! That was inevitable!

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These are matching forks for the front wheel.

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But we wouldn't use this part, we'd use a standard braking mechanism.

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So, might as well...

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..cut the extra away.

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Because mass really does matter on these machines.

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Really, I became famous for building bikes and winning bike races.

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Most people remember Old Faithful.

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There was a piece of washing machine in there.

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And that's... People go, "Oh, yes, I remember now,

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"the bit of washing machine bike

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"and the guy that did the washing machine bike."

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It's like, you can't get away from that.

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I resented it for years - "I'm more than a washing machine bike!"

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Aye, but you know what? That's what people click on to.

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-MC:

-Ladies and gentlemen, the only man it could be - the legend,

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the world hour holder, the world pursuit champion, Graeme Obree!

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Old Faithful's officially the most famous bike in the world.

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Because there's me built that bike

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and broke the world hour record on it, and then became world champion on it.

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Graeme has an ability to think outside the box,

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and that's a term that gets used a lot these days,

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But I think Graeme genuinely has this uncanny ability

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to be able to look at a problem from a different perspective

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and come up with a solution that nobody else would think of.

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And not only is he an engineering genius,

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but he's a genius on the bike, too.

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But to me, seeing a Scottish rider with no backing, no support,

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you know, doing it on his own, just with his own ideas

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and his own hard work, yeah, that really inspired me at that time.

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-COMMENTATOR:

-At the bell now, Boardman, the Olympic champion,

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being beaten by Graeme Obree,

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on his unusual bicycle that cost him about 100 British pounds to make.

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He almost chipped on the bags there.

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But on the line, Graeme Obree has done it,

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he's beaten the world record!

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4.22.668 for Graeme Obree!

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And he has knocked out the Olympic champion, Chris Boardman!

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Graeme Obree is running away with this World Championship.

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The question is, what will the world record be?

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Obree has got it! 4:20.894 -

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a new world record for Graeme Obree!

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Oh, steady on, Graeme!

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Tremendous ride - and this is the new world pursuit champion,

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and the record-holder.

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At the time I was just being beaten by this guy who was claiming to

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build bikes out of washing machines and eat marmalade sandwiches

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and get up and do the hour record.

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And yeah, it was quite irritating, to say the least.

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The Scotsman has been flying all the way round this circuit.

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He certainly will take his second world professional pursuit title.

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On the line, it's going to go to Obree from Scotland in 4:24.182.

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And look at the man from Scotland - the crowd really do love him.

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I mean, personally speaking, I want to do 100 mile an hour.

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I want to be the first man to do 100mph on this thing.

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I'm thinking, I want... You know, I don't want to aim...

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You know, they reckon, if you aim for the stars, you get to the moon.

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I want to aim for the bloody stars and actually get to the stars.

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Because I'm thinking, it was humanly,

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scientifically possible to do 100mph.

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That's where your knee goes.

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So, that's going like that.

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Personally, I'm choosing to lie forwards on it as a prone bike,

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because the shoulders are the widest part.

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If you want something aerodynamic, you want the widest part

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near the front and then tail off, for aerodynamic reasons.

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That'll actually tail off down there,

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as you get towards the bottom.

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And secondly, the amount of force you can achieve on that is phenomenal.

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For those two reasons, I want to build a prone bike.

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There!

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That one, eh?

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I was having an interesting conversation with somebody the other day,

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talking about, how did you conceptualise the whole thing?

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Mm-hm.

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I thought, well, this has got no rules and regulations.

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The rules are - go and innovate a bike.

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Design it yourself and ride as fast as you can.

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I was out on my bike having a run.

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I met two guys from the Loudoun Road Club.

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They invited me along to the club,

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and then there was one fella on the rollers,

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and it turned out it was Graeme. And there was a pillar of steam

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coming off him like a sort of chimney.

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So it was like this, you know,

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social-industrial type of image of Graeme training.

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So, Graeme, what was that originally?

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That was a piece of that old bike.

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The one that they were tipping out?

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The washing machine, it's untouched so far, Graeme, eh?

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Yeah, so far.

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-I think this fridge is going to get it next.

-I'm moving onto fridges.

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I need aluminium from a fridge to fill in these wheels.

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Because these spokes will drag into the wind.

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And I know you want it to be fridges, so's it looks cool.

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Boom-boom! Look cool!

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Yeah!

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Graeme came up to me and mentioned "World land speed record".

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And I remember it, because my words were, "That's a dancer of an idea."

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Because it's pure Graeme.

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It's like the laws of physics, driven by an athlete.

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I said I've not spent any money.

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I'm actually wrong.

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I spent six quid at the charity shop for these.

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Look, look at them rollers!

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Basically, I'm on pedals, pushing back like that.

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Which powers that gear there, turns it, like a steam train,

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which turns that gear, which turns the back wheel to go, "Boff!",

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-flying up that road, Chick!

-Brilliant, son!

-That's the plan!

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When I was about four years old, moved to Newmilns in the valley,

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which was like a town of about 4,000 people.

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But we came in as outsiders. It's very much one of those places,

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unless your grandpa's buried in the graveyard, you're an outsider.

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Like, for ever.

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We were called "the filth" because we were police.

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That's how it was in those days.

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So, because I was a policeman's son,

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me and my brother always got picked on.

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Most of the time I would sneak out of the village,

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and get into the countryside, and I would go,

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and I would hide in the forest.

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Because that seemed a credible alternative

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to going and trying and find pals.

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But I just got on my bike as an escape mechanism,

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as this magic carpet that just sails through the atmosphere,

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and over hills and far away.

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I need to squish to find out how narrow my shoulders can get.

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Without... You see, that doesn't affect your breathing.

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I can't imagine them going any less than 40 centimetres.

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I bet you they do, I bet you they go to 35.

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Not comfortably, anyway.

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I need to squish behind something.

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The boys have never, in real life,

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seen their old man doing an actual event.

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They've heard all the stories.

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They love the whole, "Oh, your dad's..."

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But they were too young to go anywhere.

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So, here's a second bite at the cherry

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of doing a really exciting thing.

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So basically, this is basically the Obree position,

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the first one set from the... 2.0?

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Yeah! The one that people said, "You can't ride like that."

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-But there's no rules against you doing it in this one, though?

-No!

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Take two!

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Oh, that feels good, actually.

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-More?

-A bit more.

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Keep the cabinet straight to the wall

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so that we can measure directly, exactly what it is.

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I think that's about it, that's it.

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-Oh, that's good.

-Right, measure that.

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It's that gap there - right there.

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34! Ya dancer!

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Right, so, what I've got, you see, my shoulders are actually that wide.

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-Yep.

-Right. Which is so much more than that.

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But if I squish them in...

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Ah, I see!

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-I see!

-Squish them in, right?

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That supports my body weight and squishes the shoulders in,

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so that at the front, it's narrower.

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And that part there, that steel part...

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If it's a choice between fibreglass, carbon or steel,

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I think I'd rather have a piece of steel beside my shoulder.

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And it turned out...

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..would you believe,

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there was a nice bit of stainless steel

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-just nestling under my kitchen cupboards? Look at that.

-Frying pan.

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We've invented a frying pan that you can get side access,

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and you can bang your sausages from each end, like that.

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Look, I've invented something!

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Remember the pair of roller blades I had? That's what's left of it.

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Basically, I want to put this on here right now,

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as it will be in the real world...

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..for the sake of measurement.

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Stick your knee in it.

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So, that's obsessively where I want it.

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There. High tea.

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You know, it's nice just to enjoy the countryside

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without just gasping out.

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We're very lucky in Scotland, on these tiny, wee roads.

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I always train on these wee roads.

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No traffic bothering you.

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I became seriously depressed, to the point of actually believing

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that everybody would be better off if I was dead.

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I thought I was doing the world a favour.

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It was obviously a clear case of mental illness.

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And the funny thing is,

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the gap between deciding, OK, I WILL kill myself,

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to the point of killing myself...

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..was the calmest, most serene period of my life.

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I took 116 aspirins.

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And because that wasn't working I then cut the seat belt out of a car

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because I could use that to hang myself on the tree over there.

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At which point the police came and they realised that

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this guy seriously was suicidal.

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So, that got me into a mental institution...

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..which is quite a shock to the system.

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There was a second suicide attempt.

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I might have actually been dead already.

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I'm very fortunate to be here.

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You don't talk to many people that have been dead, do you?

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I think once you've been dead,

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then you have to appreciate being alive more.

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This is one of my favourite places. This is just passing the Black Loch.

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You can't tell me...

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HE GASPS

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..going to the gym is ever better than this.

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The real world.

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That's what's so lovely about bikes.

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It's a real sport in the real world.

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Over that hill and you see that view

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and you think, "Wow. Is there a better thing to do

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"on a sunny day than this?"

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Then you get to whiz downhill.

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Perfect.

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I realise I'm being a bit ambitious.

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But to go to aim at the record,

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it's basically through that finish of a track race,

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if it's like 45 seconds, you want to be up to speed.

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And have you had it up at that?

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No.

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What we're doing is making a start on taking some key points

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and datums of Graeme on it,

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so getting the boards below his back to the side

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so we can start taking points and,

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within keeping with the project so far,

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just using kind of honest and readily available materials

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like cardboard, tape, things of that nature.

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That's the seat.

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I think Graeme's very much got an idea in mind of what he wants,

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so it's really trying to achieve that and also make it

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aerodynamically efficient at the same time.

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It's amazing to have a clear plastic and you're going inside this thing.

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If I was an air molecule, I'd think,

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"Oh, straight past that," wouldn't you?

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-That is impressive, isn't it?

-Just in here now, I'll do a bit.

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It's quite funny - looking at you and looking at this, you think, "Oh, that's too small".

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I think folk would think, "Is that for a kid or something?"

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MOBILE RINGS

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Hello?

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Yeah.

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I think I will be available.

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Who is it speaking, sorry?

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It's 5 Live did you say?

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We're talking about Lance Armstrong.

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He's not going to fight the drug allegations any more.

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Graeme Obree, one of the UK's best cyclists of all time,

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two world records, 1993, 1994.

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Graeme, where do you stand on this?

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Do you think he's done the right thing there?

0:19:250:19:27

Well, I think it's very interesting.

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What actually transpired is Lance has actually decided

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to cool down the whole process of investigation.

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Lance isn't the only person involved in this.

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Now, the governing body of the sport itself oversaw the entire era

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and as has been spoken about already, it was a very grubby era.

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Now, as a rider myself, I can tell you that drug-taking was endemic.

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In 1995, I was offered a contract to ride the Tour de France with

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a Tour de France team and it explained that almost,

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I'm saying almost, every rider in the Tour de France will take...

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It was reported, and it was all arranged and I said,

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"It's not happening." And that was the end of my career. No more. The entire sport closed ranks.

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That was the end of my entire cycling career, basically.

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Graeme, you talked about the mental health issues that you suffered as a result. What does it do to you?

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I did suffer serious depression,

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but with other personal issues, obviously,

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but that was one factor that didn't help my situation.

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Phil, would you resent it if your career and your income and

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everything and that was just taken away by other people's actions?

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The resentment was lack of truth and here is truth.

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After 17 years of enforced silence,

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and they said that I was fired for unprofessionalism...

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..and I had no way of defending myself.

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I couldn't say, "Well, here is the truth,"

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because I would get sued out of my house.

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That's how it was in the '90s.

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The balance between being cynical

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and about telling the truth about the past

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and not tarnishing the present

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and the enthusiasm of young people.

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Tomato and selfish paste.

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What's selfish paste?!

0:21:390:21:40

Selfish paste!

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See when you go walking or something like that and you make a sandwich?

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"Oh, blag us a sandwich."

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And you go, "Oh, there's mustard in it."

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And you go, "Oh, all right, I'll no' bother."

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The classic, the best thing is, for safety, you put mustard and, er

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Marmite both in, so there's mustard and Marmite in it.

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Chances are you're going to eliminate most of the people

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that would blag your sandwich.

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That's why I call it selfish paste.

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The problem is, I'm struggling to see just level.

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So why don't we lose the hat?

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We knew, straight off, the shell wasn't good.

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It didnae fit him properly.

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His head didn't fit in.

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Oh, that's grand.

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It's right on your head there, OK?

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-What we'll do is we'll just tape it at that shape there, OK?

-Aye.

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Beastie to ground control!

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'What makes you strong can also make you weak.

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'Like, the thing that makes me strong is my fear,

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'my obsessive behaviour,

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'my need to have an achievement, so that I can feel good about it.

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'Now, that's slightly unbalanced.

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'An unsatisfied person who is seeking satisfaction

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'through bigger and bigger results.

0:24:020:24:05

'The average person who is happy and content in their life

0:24:090:24:13

'are NOT going up at the seafront at seven o'clock on a Sunday morning

0:24:130:24:16

'in the pouring rain.

0:24:160:24:18

'Now, they're not strong people

0:24:190:24:21

'that are going to win the world championship,

0:24:210:24:23

'but they're not going to go and kill themselves.

0:24:230:24:27

'They're stable, satisfied, contented people.

0:24:270:24:30

'Now, I truly believe that the level you reach in anything

0:24:320:24:36

'is your level of satisfaction.

0:24:360:24:39

'And my level of satisfaction was the fastest human being in the best

0:24:450:24:48

'possible events in the world, ultimately what I reached.

0:24:480:24:52

'And it wasn't quite satisfying,

0:24:560:24:58

'but there's no higher level to go to,

0:24:580:25:01

'so, at that point, you don't have another step on the ladder.

0:25:010:25:07

HE BREATHES HEAVILY

0:25:070:25:09

'How do you feel good about yourself?

0:25:090:25:11

'Then you move onto obsessional behaviour like substance abuse

0:25:130:25:16

'to try and escape the fact that you need to feel better.

0:25:160:25:19

'But someone who is more content in their life with who they are...

0:25:280:25:31

'..don't need to push themselves like that.'

0:25:330:25:35

HE COUGHS

0:25:430:25:45

Oh! Sport's good for you! You know that?!

0:25:450:25:48

HE LAUGHS

0:25:480:25:49

It's January and we're in Puerto De Santiago in Tenerife.

0:25:530:25:57

At Machrihanish airport I was kind of like that

0:25:590:26:02

and I could see green and green

0:26:020:26:04

and, under those conditions, I wasn't willing to put a punt on.

0:26:040:26:09

I wanted to know that I could steer it even with the wind blowing,

0:26:090:26:12

but when I did stop and fall over, that clear material,

0:26:120:26:15

there was a crack on it.

0:26:150:26:18

Now, if that's going to protect you

0:26:180:26:19

sliding up a road at 80mph, I don't think it will.

0:26:190:26:21

'It's an awful lot of commitment to go to Nevada

0:26:310:26:33

'and, also, your reputation is at stake.

0:26:330:26:36

'So, I've eliminated the factors that are perhaps unpredictable

0:26:440:26:49

'which is basically other people.

0:26:490:26:51

'Like, I'm now taking charge of this.'

0:26:510:26:54

I decided that breathing was quite an important issue

0:27:210:27:24

so I've manufactured

0:27:240:27:25

a combination of snorkel and sink drainage unit.

0:27:250:27:30

So, I feel good about all that.

0:27:360:27:38

I took...a pill that my doctor prescribed.

0:27:440:27:46

I was struggling with personal issues

0:27:460:27:48

and struggling with the late nights and dust and everything.

0:27:480:27:51

I took this antidepressant and I thought it was

0:27:510:27:53

something that could help see me through, that he'd prescribed.

0:27:530:27:57

And it would be good for me.

0:27:570:27:59

So, the next morning I woke up and suffered a priapism.

0:27:590:28:03

The doctor said, "Right, that's an emergency,

0:28:040:28:08

I'm getting you right down to the hospital."

0:28:080:28:10

At that point they go,

0:28:100:28:11

"We need to give you a proper spinal tap," but that didn't work, and

0:28:110:28:17

they actually got a cardiac surgeon to perform vascular surgery.

0:28:170:28:24

You can see...

0:28:240:28:25

..they've actually had to take a vein out of my leg...

0:28:260:28:30

..and they've used that to form a blood supply and a blood outlet,

0:28:320:28:36

different route, and there's more scarring like that in other parts.

0:28:360:28:40

About ten hours on the operating table.

0:28:400:28:42

But the bottom line is, it means I can't think about riding a bike.

0:28:420:28:46

The guy says three weeks.

0:28:460:28:48

A bit of a setback.

0:28:480:28:49

But you know what?

0:28:490:28:51

It's not a setback

0:28:510:28:52

until the last minute you're not making the start line.

0:28:520:28:55

I've been given the all-clear by the surgeon to go and ride.

0:29:090:29:13

We'll give it a big haematoma and infection thing.

0:29:130:29:16

That is what that kind of sweat is, the antibiotics.

0:29:160:29:18

Er, but I can ride, and I will be able to ride and train.

0:29:190:29:24

That's what they've said, "Green light, go ahead."

0:29:250:29:28

HE WHISTLES

0:29:310:29:32

Now that's proper running smooth.

0:29:350:29:38

Finger touch.

0:29:380:29:39

'I'm putting my reputation on the line a wee bit. That's the fear.

0:29:550:29:57

'And other people have punted good money to get me out there,

0:29:590:30:02

'that have believed in me from pretty much the start

0:30:020:30:05

'and it's as much the fear of letting them down as anything else.'

0:30:050:30:08

-Chic, can I take this helmet off?

-Aye, course you can, yeah.

0:30:090:30:12

Right, chocks away, chaps!

0:30:130:30:14

Are you ready?

0:30:170:30:18

-Oh!

-Argh!

-You all right?

0:30:210:30:25

Uh-huh.

0:30:250:30:26

What happened there?

0:30:260:30:28

There was nothing to grab onto.

0:30:280:30:29

You should have been the other side.

0:30:290:30:31

-Are you OK?

-Uh-huh.

0:30:310:30:34

So that is the fundamental problem we've got.

0:30:340:30:36

What?

0:30:360:30:37

All I can do is keep a straight line

0:30:370:30:39

and you keep me upright or not, and I have no control over that.

0:30:390:30:44

OK, so let's go up the runway without the lid on.

0:30:440:30:47

Let's see what kind of pace I can get it up to.

0:30:470:30:49

Right, OK.

0:30:490:30:50

'Well, it's here and test, or America.

0:30:590:31:01

'I have to concentrate on looking at where I'm going

0:31:030:31:06

'through this really strained, bifocal, rumbly vision.

0:31:060:31:09

'You can kind of see this white line and a general hazy kind of focus,

0:31:100:31:14

'but only in the middle.

0:31:140:31:15

'And then you've got a real rumble on it as well.

0:31:150:31:17

'There's a really twitchy response.

0:31:190:31:21

'I have to just use my forearms to steer it.

0:31:210:31:24

'I need to concentrate on the pedalling.

0:31:240:31:26

'It feels more like an effort

0:31:320:31:34

'in some sort of big deep-sea diving suit

0:31:340:31:36

'once you've got the breathing apparatus

0:31:360:31:38

'and you're really enclosed in it.

0:31:380:31:40

'And the feeling that you're going to choke later

0:31:400:31:42

'when you bite into it to hold it, and you're actually breathing

0:31:420:31:45

'and it's closing up the hole slightly.

0:31:450:31:47

'That's a panic.

0:31:470:31:48

'When you get to 1km to go in the States, I need to feel the burn.

0:31:490:31:53

'Once I pass that speed trap, I need to have the confidence that

0:31:560:31:59

'I can breathe enough later to guide this vehicle in to get caught.'

0:31:590:32:03

-25?

-Aye.

-It must have been more than that.

0:32:120:32:15

You got up to 40, seriously.

0:32:150:32:17

-For goodness' sake.

-You're just turning everything over.

0:32:190:32:22

You've just got forward through the glass there.

0:32:220:32:24

It's satisfying, but it's slightly not satisfying as well.

0:32:240:32:29

Because I want to go, "Aye, I've done 60 or 65 or something."

0:32:290:32:33

And I've not.

0:32:330:32:34

Prestwick was a traumatic experience.

0:32:450:32:47

Now, somebody did suggest,

0:32:510:32:53

are you really going to go to America after that performance?

0:32:530:32:56

25mph, How are you possibly going to get on any decent pace?

0:32:560:32:58

So, but at the end of that it is... No. You can't just give up.

0:33:000:33:04

I think, "What can I do about it?"

0:33:060:33:08

GRINDER BUZZES

0:33:080:33:09

The post-disaster Prestwick discussion,

0:33:140:33:16

I was getting quite heated at points

0:33:160:33:19

and I suggested we just step back.

0:33:190:33:22

I've known Graeme since he was a young guy.

0:33:220:33:24

I don't understand depression...

0:33:280:33:30

..but I sort of know when to take the foot off the gas a wee bit

0:33:310:33:34

with him, because he'll normally come round.

0:33:340:33:37

They wouldn't touch that for a minute.

0:33:510:33:54

Oh!

0:33:570:33:59

I've not allowed any spare space at all

0:33:590:34:01

because you have to be obsessional at that level

0:34:010:34:04

if you want to break world records.

0:34:040:34:06

With the lid on, it's pushing my pelvis slightly down

0:34:060:34:09

and my knees are slightly hitting the metalwork.

0:34:090:34:11

It's going to have to be raised up.

0:34:120:34:15

This is going to be taken off altogether,

0:34:150:34:17

this top piece, altogether.

0:34:170:34:19

It's geared up to be, you can do 100mph.

0:34:190:34:22

It's clear if, I'm doing 35mph as it is,

0:34:220:34:25

I'm not going to do 100mph.

0:34:250:34:27

I can tell you that right now.

0:34:280:34:30

We've got to gear down to a more pragmatic gear.

0:34:310:34:34

In fact, dropping the gear about 25%...

0:34:370:34:39

..but not giving up on the fact that you could possibly get on the

0:34:400:34:43

world-record pace. It's not an impossible gear to do that with.

0:34:430:34:46

It's now the 10th of August.

0:34:460:34:47

This has to be in a crate in Aberdeen,

0:34:470:34:49

which is 200 miles from here...

0:34:490:34:51

..to be shipped out on the 23rd,

0:34:530:34:55

so it's got to leave on the 22nd.

0:34:550:34:58

Eh, that's 12 days.

0:34:580:34:59

SAWING

0:34:590:35:00

Ah, come on.

0:35:110:35:12

There.

0:35:220:35:24

It's not as I would want it, but it's OK.

0:35:250:35:28

'The guys at Prestwick Airport,

0:35:520:35:54

'they have a facility to paint The Beastie with a finish that we're

0:35:540:35:57

'looking for. I never thought we'd get anywhere near it.

0:35:570:36:00

'But I'm a wee bit on edge.

0:36:010:36:03

'I now know for certain were going to be there.

0:36:030:36:06

'We've got Graeme directed and focused on where he needs to get to,

0:36:060:36:10

'but I don't know how fast The Beastie is going to go.'

0:36:100:36:13

If his power potential is, like, where he can get it to,

0:36:130:36:18

THAT will go fast.

0:36:180:36:20

Still slightly jet-lagged, but what I want to do now at this stage

0:36:300:36:34

is actually get some real quite fast pedalling in.

0:36:340:36:37

Because if we're going to be going at a high cadence

0:36:370:36:40

then I want to get my legs into suppleness for that,

0:36:400:36:42

which I used to have all through my life.

0:36:420:36:44

I see a road going up the hill.

0:36:480:36:49

You can see the climb from here. It snakes up over the hill there.

0:36:490:36:52

That's the best run. It's quieter roads as well.

0:36:530:36:55

I'm glad we went and stayed in Elko rather than making the decision

0:37:030:37:07

to go into Battle Mountain.

0:37:070:37:09

Part of the decision about that was to isolate Graeme.

0:37:090:37:12

He could be on his own and just get on with training...

0:37:140:37:18

..and acclimatise.

0:37:190:37:21

HE GULPS BREATHS

0:38:150:38:16

OK, the road is now closed

0:38:220:38:23

and we are rolling sweet, we are now rolling sweet.

0:38:230:38:26

RADIO CRACKLES

0:38:470:38:48

Catch to start. Do you read me, over?

0:38:480:38:51

I was standing minding my own business on the start line

0:39:100:39:12

and was approached and he said,

0:39:120:39:14

"Listen, put that notepad down. I need you to launch me."

0:39:140:39:17

And I look and said, "What?!"

0:39:170:39:20

You know? I've looked at this machine that he's built for the past two years in absolute awe.

0:39:200:39:25

I have been afraid to even lay a hand on it and Graeme Obree

0:39:250:39:29

was saying, "Launch the bloody thing!"

0:39:290:39:31

OK, stand by, stand by.

0:39:310:39:33

Roger, start copies.

0:39:330:39:36

On you go, Gary.

0:39:360:39:37

Right, OK, take it away.

0:39:370:39:40

Have you got it, Graeme?

0:39:420:39:43

Our first launch wasn't successful.

0:39:470:39:49

The bike fell over.

0:39:490:39:51

I felt really awful.

0:39:520:39:53

Have you launched Graeme yet, over?

0:39:540:39:56

Negative. We tried to. Graeme fell.

0:39:560:39:59

Again, Gary, take it again, on you go.

0:39:590:40:01

Are you OK, G?

0:40:010:40:02

Well done, Gary.

0:40:080:40:09

'He is under way.'

0:40:090:40:10

Well done, mate.

0:40:100:40:11

-'How far underway?'

-On you go.

0:40:110:40:13

OK, Roger that.

0:40:130:40:16

The Beastie is so erratic. It looks so unstable.

0:40:260:40:30

I'm just shitting myself.

0:40:300:40:32

I just hope to God Graeme can get over that line

0:40:540:40:57

and hopefully he gets a bit of speed as well.

0:40:570:41:00

Keep coming, keep coming.

0:41:250:41:26

-Well done.

-Good job!

0:41:340:41:36

You did 50mph.

0:41:360:41:39

Yeah, that'll do for now.

0:41:390:41:41

He got it over the line. We had qualified.

0:41:410:41:43

Good work, you've qualified.

0:41:430:41:44

We can play with the big boys.

0:41:440:41:47

RADIO CHATTER OBSCURES SPEECH

0:41:500:41:52

And I didn't race it then because it seemed unstable.

0:41:520:41:55

OK, coming in.

0:41:550:41:57

'This is Dave Larrington, following them down.'

0:41:580:42:00

This is the first run, though. How do you assess it?

0:42:000:42:02

I think it was a success because I brought it down the road.

0:42:020:42:05

I wasnae going to race it because it was too unstable,

0:42:050:42:07

but my God, hold it to this line

0:42:070:42:08

and then I can decide about gearing later on.

0:42:080:42:10

Yeah, yeah.

0:42:100:42:12

-But that's it for now.

-Good, good.

0:42:130:42:17

The first run was Graeme in Beastie at 47.67 miles an hour.

0:42:170:42:23

We had Sebastiaan in VeloX 3 at 78.21.

0:42:270:42:32

I've got to try and get a punt on,

0:42:400:42:41

-a real punt on, without the bike going all over the place.

-Yeah, yeah.

0:42:410:42:45

That's what I've got to try and do to get to that speed.

0:42:450:42:48

That's my understanding of it at the moment. If were going to get to

0:42:480:42:51

those speeds, that's what we've got to tackle.

0:42:510:42:53

We'll get it out and get that gear on tomorrow.

0:42:530:42:56

So, Graeme managed to get a slot in the runs,

0:43:070:43:10

but he was just on the periphery.

0:43:100:43:12

It's like a sort of handicap system.

0:43:130:43:16

So if you go really fast on your first run,

0:43:160:43:18

you're guaranteed a slot.

0:43:180:43:19

The first run wasn't good enough to guarantee

0:43:230:43:25

that we know Graeme's going to get a run all week

0:43:250:43:28

and that's a problem, because if you don't get a run,

0:43:280:43:31

you don't improve your time.

0:43:310:43:33

So he needed to go out and do faster times.

0:43:340:43:36

Is that the gear you had to change?

0:43:400:43:42

Yes. This one? The 17 has come off and the 12 has gone on.

0:43:420:43:48

We've not got a ride tonight.

0:43:500:43:51

-Oh, right.

-So we can relax.

0:43:510:43:53

Obviously I've not qualified.

0:43:540:43:56

We've not qualified, so I'm going to

0:43:560:43:58

put us in for the two rides tomorrow morning,

0:43:580:44:00

one in the two-and-a-half and one in the five.

0:44:000:44:02

OK? Let's do both of them tomorrow morning.

0:44:020:44:05

-It means that we'll be up there all morning, OK?

-Right.

0:44:050:44:09

Some of the teams are really complex

0:44:180:44:20

in their and nurture and care of the vehicles.

0:44:200:44:23

Look at Graeme in isolation,

0:44:260:44:28

trying his best and doing bloody good with it.

0:44:280:44:30

And then the Dutch guys, they're at the forefront of aerodynamics.

0:44:330:44:38

It's cost an absolute fortune to put together a team.

0:44:380:44:42

They're a step change ahead of where The Beastie was

0:44:440:44:48

and a number of other riders.

0:44:480:44:50

So once we knew what the speed potential was for The Beastie,

0:44:580:45:01

once we knew it wasn't going to be 75mph,

0:45:010:45:03

there was a discussion at that point in time about the prone record

0:45:030:45:07

and the prone record was 54mph.

0:45:070:45:09

Once we saw that, we knew that Graeme was close to it.

0:45:090:45:12

So it was a matter of Graeme going out with that target in mind.

0:45:130:45:17

Take a bit of spring, right? You hear me?

0:45:220:45:25

Let's not...

0:45:270:45:28

Oh, it's away! Ha-ha!

0:45:300:45:33

Graeme, that was childish.

0:45:330:45:35

TRAIN HORN SOUNDS

0:45:350:45:36

It's Thursday, so we had two days.

0:45:510:45:53

Bloody good conditions.

0:45:540:45:55

So, in my head, today's the day.

0:45:570:45:59

Right.

0:46:020:46:03

'When you're ready, over.'

0:46:030:46:05

Gary done a brilliant launch and off Graeme went

0:46:190:46:22

and I was, like, highly optimistic.

0:46:220:46:23

There is a fighting element to it and it's just the discomfort.

0:46:430:46:47

If you have to raise it to 56mph, that becomes very uncomfortable.

0:46:470:46:51

If you lose that air tube,

0:46:510:46:52

then you could actually suffocate and faint in there.

0:46:520:46:55

You can actually end up hitting the rocks.

0:46:570:46:59

And you WILL break your neck.

0:46:590:47:01

I was totally gasped out, 500 metres to go,

0:47:110:47:14

to the point I can hardly see where I'm going.

0:47:140:47:16

You're hitting the 500-metre mark

0:47:190:47:22

knowing that you are actually totally nailing this,

0:47:220:47:25

because I absolutely have to.

0:47:250:47:27

It's like, "Must is a good master".

0:47:270:47:29

You MUST break that record, for emotional survival.

0:47:310:47:34

That outweighs the sense of fear of suffocation.

0:47:360:47:39

GASPING

0:47:490:47:50

OK. I have him. We have him.

0:47:500:47:52

Good job.

0:47:530:47:55

You were pushing 60 there.

0:47:550:47:57

-Yeah.

-Well done, Graeme.

0:47:570:47:58

When they let me out... I'm going "Let me out, let me out!"

0:47:580:48:01

I panicked in the last minute.

0:48:010:48:02

-Yeah, you're bleeding.

-Couldn't breathe.

0:48:020:48:05

-Where?

-Just up from here.

0:48:050:48:07

What did I, did I make the 56?

0:48:090:48:12

Erm, we think so.

0:48:120:48:14

We think you did about 55, 56.

0:48:140:48:17

Excellent. Good job, guys. Good job.

0:48:180:48:20

Good job. Certainly over 55 coming out of the speed trap.

0:48:200:48:23

I slowed down at the speed trap. I was panicking.

0:48:250:48:27

"Let me out, I just want out."

0:48:270:48:28

52.5.

0:48:360:48:39

Fuck.

0:48:390:48:40

You got a hat.

0:48:400:48:43

Got your 50mph hat.

0:48:430:48:45

-That's great.

-Yeah?

0:48:450:48:46

Roger that, thank you.

0:48:470:48:49

-So keep stepping it up a little bit.

-Right, we need to go again.

0:48:490:48:52

'This was the drop.

0:49:210:49:23

'This is the point of pressure and stress that, until recent times,

0:49:240:49:29

'my psychologist, she would never have countenanced me

0:49:290:49:31

'being allowed to actually be in this cauldron of stress...

0:49:310:49:35

-BYSTANDERS:

-Yeah!

0:49:350:49:37

'..for the last months,

0:49:430:49:45

'of knowing that that race is going to be substandard.

0:49:450:49:47

'Knowing we're coming to America with economic backing

0:49:470:49:49

'and people backing me up and people pressuring me, going,

0:49:490:49:52

'"Graeme, come on, you've really actually got to blast your guts out

0:49:520:49:55

'even though you're dog-tired."

0:49:550:49:57

'That's...five times in my life I've had to do that.

0:50:020:50:05

'Two hour records, two world championships and that.

0:50:050:50:07

'And people say, "You WILL beat that record.

0:50:100:50:12

"You're not committed enough."

0:50:120:50:13

'When I've known the bike just isn't good enough. Get a grip here.

0:50:130:50:16

'I'm coming over here to face embarrassment

0:50:160:50:19

'so I can then go home and hide.'

0:50:190:50:20

If we had a two-and-a-half mile course

0:50:250:50:27

that finished two miles up the road I feel I could probably do 58 or 60.

0:50:270:50:31

It's not. It's here.

0:50:320:50:33

There's something draggy about this straight.

0:50:330:50:35

Unless I've got a mental block about it, there's something draggy about it.

0:50:350:50:38

You actually lose speed in this last mile.

0:50:380:50:40

You recognise we need to go again.

0:50:410:50:43

There's a parallel to be drawn here in the...time you won the world record...

0:50:430:50:50

Final.

0:50:500:50:51

..in terms of, on the Saturday night...

0:50:510:50:53

..you hadn't done it, but you went back the next day

0:50:550:50:57

when other people thought that, you know...

0:50:570:50:59

You know, you've got that capacity to say, "Fuck it. I'm going to go again."

0:50:590:51:02

Oh, I've got to go again and do it right this time.

0:51:020:51:04

The pain of failure and the feeling of failure

0:51:090:51:12

between stopping the first record attempt

0:51:120:51:15

and saying, "I'm going again",

0:51:150:51:16

actually changed me as an athlete.

0:51:160:51:19

Changed me as a human being.

0:51:200:51:22

That was the moment where, see that 1% that you can't access,

0:51:260:51:30

of energy and drive,

0:51:300:51:32

the type of energy that gets your kids out a burning building,

0:51:320:51:36

that's the energy that's so painful to have not achieved

0:51:360:51:41

of that level that you needed to.

0:51:410:51:44

That's the point when you actually change as a human being.

0:51:440:51:47

In other words, I needed to fail to access that.

0:51:490:51:53

And the next day,

0:51:580:52:01

I was then able to access all of this.

0:52:010:52:06

Because I actually needed to win,

0:52:060:52:08

even if I was going to die.

0:52:080:52:09

I needed to justify my self-worth...

0:52:120:52:14

..as a human being.

0:52:150:52:17

I kept Graeme out the way as late as possible.

0:52:410:52:45

We got onto that start line with five minutes to spare.

0:52:450:52:47

We had been getting on really good with getting the lid on,

0:52:530:52:56

but that morning we couldn't get the lid on.

0:52:560:52:58

It was just a nightmare.

0:52:580:52:59

Gary did a brilliant start and Graeme got it away brilliant,

0:53:310:53:34

but it was windy

0:53:340:53:36

and I was, like, shitting myself. I was thinking, "We've blown it."

0:53:360:53:39

STEADY BREATHING

0:53:490:53:50

BREATHING QUICKENS

0:54:100:54:12

BREATHING ECHOES

0:54:350:54:37

He was fantastic and he did a 56.62mph into

0:55:410:55:46

3mph head wind, but with legal winds.

0:55:460:55:50

So we're very excited.

0:55:510:55:52

56.6mph, new world prone bike best.

0:55:520:55:56

There.

0:55:570:55:58

To come here and then to set a world record first time round,

0:55:580:56:02

that's pretty impressive.

0:56:020:56:04

Well done, Graeme. Well done.

0:56:070:56:10

All good. Mission accomplished.

0:56:100:56:13

Albeit it wasn't the mission we set out for,

0:56:130:56:16

but it was mission accomplished.

0:56:160:56:18

After my mental illness,

0:56:240:56:25

I shouldn't have allowed myself to have to dig that deep,

0:56:250:56:28

that emotional trauma of having to go again,

0:56:280:56:30

again, with my back against the wall.

0:56:300:56:32

I shouldn't have allowed myself to be in that position,

0:56:320:56:35

erm, emotionally.

0:56:350:56:38

As you know, there are near ideal conditions this morning,

0:56:460:56:49

so we have Graeme in Beastie,

0:56:490:56:53

56.62mph.

0:56:530:56:56

It was strange. Just the five minutes before I spoke to you here,

0:57:070:57:10

the timekeeper announced it is a new official world record

0:57:100:57:13

and that's a strange feeling. I've not heard that for 20 years.

0:57:130:57:17

It's a slow absorbance of, "Oh, my goodness,

0:57:170:57:20

"I've just broken a world record. Bona fide. Official."

0:57:200:57:22

So I'm still absorbing that, so that's nice.

0:57:230:57:26

Like, I've personally shot out for the stars and reached the moon.

0:57:320:57:37

And, OK, I had to lower the peg,

0:57:370:57:39

but I got to the point I did manage to do 56.6mph and take the record.

0:57:390:57:43

He's a maverick genius. He's got the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old kid.

0:57:440:57:51

But when it comes down to it, what 48-year-old

0:57:510:57:54

would squeeze themselves into a coffin on two wheels

0:57:540:57:58

and launch themselves across a highway in northern Nevada

0:57:580:58:02

at speeds touching 60mph in a machine that's made from saucepans

0:58:020:58:09

and second-hand roller-skates

0:58:090:58:11

that cost six and a half quid from a charity store in Saltcoats?!

0:58:110:58:16

It's mad, absolutely mad. And that's why we love him.

0:58:160:58:20

The sense of relief will fade and the sense of...

0:58:280:58:31

..of folk going, "Oh, wow! You broke a world record. Well done, big man!"

0:58:330:58:36

I guess tigers don't change their stripes, do they?

0:58:410:58:43

It's like, when their back's against the wall, it's like...

0:58:430:58:46

"Rrr! You're getting it!"

0:58:460:58:47

MUSIC: I Was The King by Alun Woodward

0:58:510:58:53

# I was the king

0:58:530:58:55

# I was crowned in the ring

0:58:550:59:00

# On a course where I flew

0:59:000:59:03

# I was brutal and true

0:59:030:59:08

# In the bright fjord night

0:59:080:59:12

# In Bordeaux fond and sly

0:59:120:59:15

# In the jungles I rule

0:59:150:59:20

# I was king, I was Rex Omnium #

0:59:200:59:26

Battle Mountain follows Scottish cycling legend, double world hour record holder and world 4k pursuit champion Graeme Obree on his quest to challenge the world land speed record at Battle Mountain in Nevada in 2013.

Cycling the bike that he built in his kitchen, his tools of choice were his mind, hands and eyes in preparation for his race against teams employing the latest computer simulation technology and world leading aerodynamics experts.

However, Battle Mountain is a film which is about so much more than cycling. Director David Street has captured something quite remarkable as Obree prepares himself for his quest to ready and race at Battle Mountain. From building his latest hand built machine, named by Sir Chris Hoy MBE "The Beastie", in his small one bedroom flat in Saltcoats, Scotland using mostly recycled materials, to his rudimentary analysis of physics, biomechanics and aerodynamics using nothing more than his mind and imagination, Obree is a purist in the strongest sense placing absolute trust in his intellectual prowess to provide the optimum solution to overcoming the challenges posed by Mother Nature when riding a bike.

No wind tunnels, no computer simulations to determine the optimum performance parameters, The Beastie is designed with one purpose in mind - to go fast, terrifyingly fast, with the rider lying prone, head first - face forward! Where the other riders competing at Battle Mountain are wired into world leading computer technology, Obree faces the challenge down single minded with total belief in the powers of his mind and body.


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