Do I not like that . . . How I got a rough ride: Graeme Obree explains why he feels he was unfairly treated by the world cycling authorities

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THIS was the week when I set out to defend my world 4,000 metres pursuit title in Sicily and was told 55 minutes before my first race that I wouldn't be allowed to ride the way I wanted to. It was an incredible situation, and it has left me feeling very cynical about the way cycling's world governing body has conducted itself.

The problem arose over the bike I ride and the position I ride in. But to understand it fully you have to go back quite a long way. It was 1986 when I first rode this way - with the handlebars raised and my arms tucked into my chest, a bit like a downhill skier. For years nobody in England ever said anything, but that was perhaps because it was Chris Boardman who was usually top dog.

But then came last year when I set the world hour record and won the world pursuit title in Norway. To begin with, the rest of the world just saw me as a freak, but nobody at the UCI, cycling's world governing body, said anything to me at all. What stirred things up was when Francisco Moser, who had held the hour record before me, tried to go for it again. He developed a bike similar to mine but went even further than me in wearing a chest support to make the position more comfortable.

That was when the UCI started getting worried. They indicated that they thought things were going too far, that the bike was becoming more important than the rider, but still they didn't do anything about it. The next thing was when I broke the world hour record again in April this year. Within a few days of that, the UCI announced a change in the regulations which meant I would have to move the position of my saddle. But the ridiculous thing was that when the next World Cup event was held - in Italy at the end of May - it was clear that the saddles of only about 10 per cent of the riders would conform to the new ruling. The UCI suspended it.

At that stage nobody really knew what was happening. I was working on the new position, only to see a German cyclist, Jens Lehmann, riding in the original Obree posture in a race in Copenhagen in June. I thought: 'Hang on a second - this can't be right.' But the UCI were obviously still worried; about the position of the saddle and the fact that the handlebars were higher than the saddle. Eventually we got what I thought was their final word on it - the famous Article 49.

I duly converted my bike, and thought everything conformed. Certainly Ian Emmerson, the president of the British Cycling Federation and vice-president of the UCI, thought so when he saw it. Just to make sure, Sandy Gilchrist, the British team manager at the world championships, and I took the bike to the UCI when we got to Sicily.

They didn't like the position of the saddle; so we changed it. Still they didn't like it. So we changed it again. We changed it four times altogether, and in the end they seemed happy.

Finally we got to the day the competition began, last Tuesday. I got down to the track to learn that they had come up with another new regulation - to do with the position of the arms - which was going to make it impossible for me to ride the way I'd been led to believe would be all right. This was 12.20pm and I was due to ride at 1.15pm. I couldn't possibly work out a new riding position in that time. It was patently obvious I would be disqualified and that's exactly what happened.

The UCI have put every obstacle in the way that they could have. They are afraid of what it might lead to, but they also don't seem to like the fact that someone can build their bike in their back shed, as I have done, and go round beating people who are riding the bike manufacturers' top bikes that cost pounds 4,000. Now my own sponsors are pretty angry and we're considering legal action.

I feel very hard done by in the way the UCI have handled all this. They knew the position I was going to ride in when they passed the bike the day before the competition began. If we'd known about it then, we might even have been able to do something about it. As it was, we were far too far down the road. I knew it was the end.

(Photograph omitted)

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