A Somewhat Counter-intuitive Truth

by Chikashi

The Obree Way by Graeme Obree

The Flying Scotsman’s book is very interesting mainly because it reveals a bit about Obree as a person. It is a case study of what is required to push and redefine established boundaries: the personality traits such as dedication, discipline and obsession. If you are seeking specific tips as a cycling enthusiast, you may be disappointed not because there aren’t any. In fact, the book is full of advice and tips, but they are appropriate for those who have specific, ambitious goals. Obree’s recommendations for setting up your bike to optimise fit can be filed under ‘What works for Graeme’ but not repeated as universal truths.

However, there is one bit of Obree’s wisdom that stuck in my mind: a time trial is not about being fast but about not being slow.

I must confess that I initially thought, ‘Dood, dat is an egregious fallacy.’ It does appear to be tautological, doesn’t it?

Until I recalled my performance during a club TT event. What initially appeared to be a bad case of tautology is actually valid.

It also explains why the average speed on a routine ride with a consistent and comfortable tempo can be higher than that with several segments of anaerobic efforts alternating with ‘recovery’ segments.

The truth applies not only to TTs but also to the whole of a Grand Tour. Winning one in the general classification is not about winning all the stages but about achieving the shortest cumulative time. How Contador won this year’s Giro d’Italia without winning a single stage illustrates the point eloquently.

But then again, ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ can be relative. Here’s Andy Birdsall during the City RC Hull Open 10-mile Time Trial. Fast forward to 6:30 to see Wiggo overtaking him as though Birdsall is going at a snail’s pace despite clocking a very respectable 38 mph when Wiggo whizzed by at unknown velocity.

Don’t go slow this Sunday, Wiggo. Show’em who’s Da Boss.