Were you a Chris Boardman fan? Or was the enigmatic Graeme Obree more your style?
Two very fast yet very different British cyclists whose career trajectories crossed with spectacular effect during the 1990s in their shared quests for the holy grail of road cycling: the hour record.
Both men held the record that had previously belonged to the likes of Coppi, Merckx and Moser. Both lost it again. And both reclaimed it. Again. Between them Obree and Boardman won national titles, rainbow jerseys, Tour prologues and a swag of medals at major championships. Their rivalry even inspired the 2006 feature film, The Flying Scotsman.
This book documents their respective journeys. And it’s about 20% too long. That said, it’s filled with some fascinating and, at times, disturbing insights into one of cycling’s greatest ever rivalries. It explores how two remarkable yet flawed men drove each other to incredible feats on the boards and roads of Britain and Europe. It’s a story of contrasts; two very different ways to achieve the same ultimate goal. The fastidiously scientific approach of Boardman and his coaches, focused heavily on watts, will seem more than a little familiar these days. Versus the creatively chaotic approach of bipolar disorder suffer, Obree, whose pursuit of the ultimate aerodynamic bike (he built most of his equipment himself) and riding position was so radical he was pursued relentlessly by the UCI whose constant rulechanges almost drove him from the sport.
The Race Against Time goes on a bit. But if you’re interested in cycling history, and the goings on that have led to the rise and rise of British Cycling in the last decade, it’s definitely worth a read.