McGregor suffers for finest hour
Andrew Longmore talks to the cycling heroine homing in on a world record
Sunday 15 June 1997
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.
Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'
Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance
Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online
Latest in Sport
Anderlecht vs Arsenal match report: Kieran Gibbs and Lukas Podolski pounce as Arsenal leave it late
Manchester United vs Chelsea: Daley Blind admits United must 'play our best game' to get a result at Old Trafford
Liverpool vs Real Madrid player ratings: Was Cristiano Ronaldo the star man? And how did Mario Balotelli fare?
Liverpool vs Real Madrid match report: Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema run Reds ragged at Anfield
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was shirt swapping the real reason?
- 1 As an ex prostitute, I urge all the political parties to commit to the Sex Buyer Law
- 2 Nokia no more: Microsoft drops once-ubiquitous mobile name – in favour of its Lumia brand
- 3 Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery: 'I'm living a fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
- 4 Australian café owner sparks debate after saying 'No' to having unruly children on premises
- 5 Couple die within 28 hours of each other after being married for 73 years
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
£70 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Group: SEN Teaching Assistants needed in...
£21500 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...
£20000 - £22000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful and w...
£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...