Cycling: Obree plays it safe in time trial: Scot decides to adopt triathlon handlebars for World Road Race Championships

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(First Edition)

GRAEME OBREE has opted for safety rather than speed in today's time trial in the World Road Race Championships in Catania, Sicily.

After his disqualification in the 4,000 metres track pursuit at Palermo because of his downhill skier riding position, Obree has adapted his bike for the time-trial. But he will ride with standard triathlon handlebars in the 42km event after deciding that the 18-inch extension he had built on his handlebars could be dangerous on a course with 18 bends.

He said: 'I don't feel in control. There is less control than my original bike. I would have taken the corners fast, but with these handlebars it would be more dangerous.'

It has been claimed Obree's home-made bike gives him a significant advantage and he will be out to prove that he does not rely on technology to be successful.

Jean Wauthier, a Belgian cycling official, has said Obree would not have reached 46km in an hour on a normal race bike, let alone set the world hour record at 52.713km as he did in Bordeaux in April.

The Australian coach, Charlie Walsh, claimed that German tests showed that Obree's original bike had a better than 10 per cent saving in the power required by a rider, and that the Olympic and world pursuit champion Chris Boardman's Lotus machine had only five per cent.

But Boardman, one of the favourites to win the race, said: 'Graeme has athletic attributes and he wants to get away from the freaky image that he has portrayed. It is not what sponsors want.'

The pick of the world's fastest riders against the clock are in action, with the notable exception of Miguel Indurain of Spain. He has made breaking Obree's world hour record his priority after winning his fourth Tour de France.

Yevgeny Berzin, the young Russian who stopped Indurain's flow in the Giro d'Italia by beating him in the time trial, is highly rated.

Berzin also has time-trial victories over the French specialist Amand de las Cuevas and Tony Rominger, the Swiss who has also beaten Indurain. De las Cuevas won last year's Grand Prix des Nations, rated the premier test of riding aginst the clock.

Gianni Bugno, of Italy, is unlikely to start the professional road race championship at Agrigente on Sunday because of an ankle injury. Bugno has not trained since a fall earlier in the week left him with a painful left ankle.