McGregor suffers for finest hour

Andrew Longmore talks to the cycling heroine homing in on a world record

The Mickey Mouse watch on the wrist of Yvonne McGregor is not totally misleading. McGregor, at the age of 36, has the twinkling enthusiasm of a child at the door of the Magic Kingdom. She laughs readily, smiles with her eyes and talks with a refreshing lack of rancour about her own impoverished state. Because success has come late in her sporting life, no time need be wasted wondering what she might have missed.

There is nothing Mickey Mouse about the record McGregor will attempt to break in the Manchester Velodrome next Wednesday. Though the British have yet to give cycling's world hour record due reverence, on the continent it is accorded a status second only to victory in the Tour. Olympic golds you can take or leave, but the holder of the hour record is someone to respect, man or woman.

McGregor has broken the record once and the fact that Jenny Longo, the Miguel Indurain of women's cycling, only regained it by riding at altitude in the stretched out "Superman" position (now banned by the authorities) on a special bike bore testimony to the natural talent of the British rider, who had to make do with ground-level Manchester and a beat-up bike. The following morning, as part of the festivities marking National Cycle Week, the new hour record-holder was bicycling around the local park with the Mayor of Bradford. She was celebrated loudly in her home town, but the national press paid scant attention. It was all very understated, a little slapdash and rather British.

On a custom-built Boardman-designed Hotta bike this time, McGregor aims to add the women's record to the men's "hour" shattered by Chris Boardman last year. It would be a double to cherish, given the scorn traditionally heaped on Les rosbifs by continental riders. To beat Longo, she has to add an extra 748 metres - three laps of the Manchester track - on to her old record. That means 193 laps at an average speed of just over 48 kilometres an hour. Stamina and guts are paramount, along with a mind-numbing ability to pin the front wheel on to a black line about two inches thick and a natural imperviousness to pain.

"Last time, the main problem was saddle soreness. The last 15 minutes were agony, but I feel stronger this time and more confident. I know what I'm letting myself in for," she said. And last time, she vowed never to let herself in for it again, though the reminder brings only a pitying smile. You don't understand, do you?

"I've always been competitive. Once I lost the record, I wanted it back again. It was the way I was brought up. I was always outside playing sport and in every school team. I began running at 12 and together with one of my two sisters and a brother would head off for the schools running championships. The clan McGregor."

Just to flesh out this modest history, McGregor was an international fell-runner and triathlete before she won gold in her first ever cycling points race at the 1994 Commonwealth Games, lapping a field which included the Olympic champion. This season, she went to the Spanish Saunier Duval team to gain some experience in road-racing, won her first stage race, finished second and third (twice) in three of the major women's tours and shot to fourth in the world road rankings. A week ago, having just returned from the Tour of Finisterre, she won the the national 25-mile time trial championships by the unbelievable margin of four and a half minutes. A late developer and a fast learner. Heaven knows what heights the feisty northerner might have reached had cycling grabbed her full attention before the age of 30.

"I've no regrets about starting so late," she said. "I've travelled around the world, doing the backpacking thing and enjoying myself. If you start concentrating on sport full-time too young, you miss out on experiences like that. Now, I've got all that out of the way, I can concentrate totally on my cycling. I've found my niche, had a bit of success and now I want more."

Progress has come in every form other than the figure on her bank balance. A part-time youth worker, McGregor has relied on odd grants and sponsorships to survive. She rides for the Adidas Sci-Con team, run by Level Four, Chris Boardman's company. But retrieving the hour record will not be the passport to riches it once was for Boardman, who advertised his services to professional teams by beating the hour in Bordeaux when the Tour was in town. McGregor, in other words, is doing this for love.

"I'm under no illusion about how hard it will be," she added. "You're riding at over 30mph for an hour. But my form is good and I'm prepared to suffer to get it. It could be a few metres or 100 metres. It'll be close." Too close for Mickey Mouse to measure most probably.

News
peoplePerformer had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer
News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
people
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction
music
Sport
Today's Liverpool Echo back page
football
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
books
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
Life and Style
tech

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
One of the 'princesses' in the video
videoYouTube reinstates sweary video after takedown for 'violating terms'
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant

£70 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Group: SEN Teaching Assistants needed in...

Year 4 Teacher required for 2 terms

£21500 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

Accounts Assistant - Sales Ledger, Sage Line 50 - St Albans

£20000 - £22000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful and w...

EBD Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?