Letters to Cyclingnews Graeme Obree Special Edition
The news that former hour record holder Graeme Obree was suffering from bipolar disorder and had attempted to commit suicide shortly before Christmas was a profound shock to all of us here at Cyclingnews, and to many people in the world-wide cycling community.
As the news spread we began to receive emails asking where people could write to express their support for Graeme in his battle against this illness; the logical thing to do was to offer to collect and post those messages here on Cyclingnews. This page, then, is a collection of your messages of support and good wishes for Graeme and his family.
Everyone at Cyclingnews wishes Graeme all the best for a full recovery.
Please email your wishes for Graeme to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From: Jeffrey DeHaven
I was moved when I read this article.
Illnesses of this nature are slow to be understood by most people. However, most western societies have come a long way in accepting -- far more, actually -- having deep compassion for those who have mental and emotional illness. We know now that much depends on the chemicals that are innate in our bodies than our being "bad", "demented" or "evil" people.
I wish the very best for Mr. Obree and his family as they continue to seek healing and understanding. It can be a very long and very difficult battle. However, we have seen the likes of what this fine young man is made of on a bicycle. I have confidence that he will pursue health and a life with the same intelligence, tenacity and hope.
Prayers and wishes to Mr. Obree and his family.
From: Daryl Annells
Please forward my sincere sympathies to Graeme Obree. I don't want to remember this superb athlete for this type of mishap, but to remember him for his outstanding achievements on the bike, and as an ambassador for his country and for cycling in general. Gee I still can't believe this has happened, but please look after him and his family, and support him in his endeavors to continue in life. Thinking deeply about you, Graeme.
Although I do not know him personally I have found him to be inspirational and modest regarding his achievements. When training or racing gets hard I remember his approach and the sheer determination of his not to give-in. Of course no-one knows the torments that rage inside another persons mind, nor how they view their successes and failures but it does not seem like Obree to do this whilst in a rational frame of mind.
On a personal note I raced on the isle of Man in 1992 in a time trial, just a two man team time trial no great thing yet I'm pushed-off by Obree. How many riders of his stature who have done this? Not many.
I wish him and his family all the best and I pray for him to find a way out of the nightmare he must be living in.
From: Malcolm Coghill
Really sorry to hear of your problems, just keep on riding the bike, cycling can be a great release from the darkness that blankets me from time to time.
From: Neil Dykes
Graeme: I was really shocked to read the report in cyclingnews.com. I just wanted you to know how much Gina and I enjoyed meeting you back in 1995, and subsequently our brief meeting at the Worlds in Manchester. I'm no authority, but I can appreciate that it's never going to be easy living life in such an unconventional and innovative fashion. You are an inspiration to all of us slightly unconventional types no matter what arena we find ourselves in. I hope this stuff doesn't embarrass you, you'd be amazed how many people have been down that road
With lots of love from Gina and I to you and your family.
From: Jeff Smith
Dear Graeme, Your life so far has been an inspiration to our cycling fraternity. Your intelligence and determination are a credit to you. All of us down under are thinking of you. Keep smiling, even Superman had an off day occasionally but he always won through.
From: Mylene Garcia
I'm one of the fans of Obree. I'm a Guam cyclist that represented Guam last Olympics 1992 and 2000. I met him at the 1995 world cup Tokyo, Japan. He was friendly guy and I have taken w/ him a picture inside a velodrome. I hope he is there w/ God and back her memory.
From: Clive Laing
I don't know Graeme Obree but I have always felt that he was screwed by his own people, the British. To hear this news is particularly distressing. Come on Graeme come back as a vet and kick some more arses as we all know you can.
From: Bill King
Graeme: Please read these letters and sense the overwhelming support and friendship of strangers that urges you to hang in there! The respect you have earned as a cyclist has brought many of us to the point of writing these notes now to urge on the man. All of us who ride a bike -- to ride or race, or simply enjoy a pedal around the park or to race at speed -- wish you the very best!
With respect and friendship
From: Len Delicaet
I just simply wanted to wish you all the best, Graeme, to you and your family.
What you've achieved has been an inspiration to me and many others!
Best wishes for 2002!
From: David Hill
Dear Graeme, get well soon
As an expatriate Brit. (north-eastern English, with Scottish sympathies) and living in a land (Sweden) of bureaucrats, your exploits always kept me entertained and had me rooting for you as an athlete, innovator, as one who dared question both the system and tradition, and as the underdog.
I admired greatly your utilization of materials to hand, having grown up in the working class north like most of my generation (racing 1959-1980) we had to get by on what we could afford, which was often along way from the best, and you took it to a fine art.
You came up with the goods despite doing it the hard way when few
believed in you.
You have many fans out in the world, and I'm sure you made many more because of the UCI's stupidity over banning your innovations.
So keep your spirits up, I'm still rooting for you.
Best wishes, and as the Swedes say "kram" (a hug)
love and peace within you and without
From: Murray Lydeamore
You have been a source of encouragement and inspiration to so many throughout your career. I trust that the assurance of my thoughts and prayers for you at this time will provide encouragement to you. May you experience a special peace, and an inner strengthening for each of the coming days.
Murray Lydeamore, Sports Chaplain, Australian Institute of Sport
From: Jeremy Briggs and the De-Laune CC
On behalf of myself and my club mates at the De-Laune Cycling Club here in South East London I would like to send our best wishes to Graeme Obree and wish him a speedy recovery as he and his family deal with their present problems.
On a personal note Graeme, your appearances at the Good Friday track meetings at Herne Hill track gave so many of us such great pleasure, as you wowed us with your inventiveness and athleticism. The memories seem so vivid, especially when I recall seeing you out on the streets of Crystal Palace on Old Faithful. Please take the good wishes of all cyclists in this part of the world and I really hope you will grace us with your presence once more in the future,
Jeremy Briggs and the De-Laune CC
From: Emilio Cervantes & Jennifer Franklin
First off, I hope the healing process has started. Like a Madison, you can't go this one alone. You aren't alone.
I wanted to tell you how much your cycling story has inspired me. In the US, we call your kind of innovation "thinking outside of the box". That is a considered a great compliment over here. If there is anything this sport and indeed mankind needs, it's a open mind and willingness to seek truth no matter where it may be found.
I consider myself proud to know of your triumphs on the bike. Stay involved in the sport. We need you.
Emilio Cervantes & Jennifer Franklin
From: John Leitch
We need guys who race on marmalade sandwiches.
From: the Walls
I'm devastated by the news of Graeme Obree's misfortune over Christmas. Since the days of Graeme's scintillating TT jousts with Chris Boardman, before their great successes on the World stage, I've been a massive fan. I remember travelling to Manchester one cold Sunday morning to see them both riding a 25. We were waiting for the two to appear, but they came in five minutes ahead of schedule and I missed my photos! Those were indeed heady days in the TT world.
I loved the Alf Tupper 'Tough of the Track' (Hotspur readers will know what I mean!) way Graeme prepared for his world pursuit exploits. We all know about Old Faithful, but Chris Boardman also alluded to Graeme's marmalade sandwich diet. I'm sure Graeme was far more methodical in his preparation than we have been told, but that sort of story gained him massive publicity, both here and on the continent.
A lot has been made of the advantage Graeme innovated with his two extremely aerodynamic positions, but make no mistake, this man also had genuine world class. It was awesome watching him perform on the world stage, and I'm sure all of his fans will join with me in thanking him for brightening our cycling scene during his too-brief career.
I've been abroad following cycling since the final days of Rik Van Looy's career, and have seen many races which have raised my heartbeat to about the 200 mark, but there are only two times I've almost been on my knees whispering fervently for a rider during a race. The first was for Sean Kelly in the final few kilometers of his last Milan - San Remo win. The other time was for Graeme when he rode against Chris Boardman in the World Pursuit (sorry Chris!). Those two rides are etched in my memory.
Thanks for the memories Graeme, and kindest regards to yourself and your family.
From: Peter Easton
As a Scotsman living in the States, I have always been proud to follow your accomplishments on the bike. May you be blessed with the faith to recover and I pray for your health and happiness.
All the best from a fellow Scot,
From: Adam Wild
This is just to wish Obree all the best. He was, is, and will remain an inspiration to everyone who doesn't want to play by the book.
From: John Richards
Although my competitive days are over I am still inspired by the TV documentary of the attempts on 'The Hour' by yourself and Chris Boardman. Your efforts there, and at the Worlds, show what is possible with commitment and application and light the way for all ambitious cyclists.
Here's hoping you make a complete recovery from your illness.
Yours in sport
From: Ed Ayres
Very sorry to hear about your trouble. I very much admire your accomplishments and you nonconformist attitude. I wish you , your wife, and family all the best in the future.
From: Mark Newman
Graeme; Hope you make a good recovery.
Thanks for the help you gave us in the Isle of Man when we gave you a lift to the airport during the Espoirs Euro championships and you loaded competitors bikes into the vans en route from the various hotels. I've had a shitty time since a bad accident several years ago and struggle through bouts of depression. Don't push your family and mates out, they all want to help even if they fully don't fully understand.
From: Francis Ennis
We were very saddened to hear of your trouble recently. As brothers we would like to take this moment to express our admiration for you as a rider and as a human being (all those lovely eccentricities!), and to thank you for the pleasure that you have given us all, and many like us, over the years of your career.
Our thoughts are certainly with you now but we feel confident that we'll have you back to us in the near future. We look forward to it mate.
Francis & Patrick & John-Paul Ennis,
From: Mike Vaught
I'll never forget reading about Obree building his own TT bike using bearings from a washing machine for the bottom bracket, even he wasn't famous for the "superman" position he is an innovator. I hope he gets command over his bipolar disorder.
From: Mike Benson
Hey Graeme, hang tough with your treatment! You've had so much discipline,
have endured so much pain in training, and have had such original ideas
that you've shaken up the whole cycling world into a different way of
thinking. You've been an inspiration for me for the above stated reasons
and I'm sure you are for your boys also.
From: Jeff Burror
Just want to send a word to Graeme, I think you are a super guy and
you did a lot to change the world of cycling. You showed amazing, inspiring
courage when it was obvious that the UCI didn't like you. I think your
home training methods and unorthodox equipment made us all think about
the high price of this sport and proved success lies in the heart and
determination to go after a dream and make it a reality. I wish you
all the best in recovery and will be praying for you!!
Hi Graeme. Get well, I know what you're going through, you're not alone. I recently started medication for my depression. It has helped me. I wish I would have started years ago. The reasons I didn't were lack of awareness that such things were available, denial, and the stigma attached to it.
Now I'm aware of the treatments, I'm mature enough not to pretend it's not happening, and there isn't the stigma there once was. It's just like any other illness.
Accept it, get treatment, and get well.
You can do it, I can do it.
People have come back from much more serious things. Look at Lance Armstrong!
I started cycling about 12 years ago. I didn't realize it until recently but one of the reasons I got so hooked on it was because it helped me with my depression. Before I was a cyclist I was a surfer.
I was as hooked on surfing as I am on cycling for the same reason. I've been battling depression for a long time. I can remember being depressed in high school and now I'm 48. I can only wonder how much better my life would be if I could have gotten the treatment that I'm getting now.
The point is that depression kind of snowballs. The more you've been depressed the more depressed you are. Wellness works the same way.
The more well you've been the more well you are. Do the things that make you well.
See the doctor, take your medication, keep cycling. As time goes by you will become well.
It's very important to keep cycling.
There is the obvious benefit of good physical fitness but there are other benefits.
Think of all the people you've met and all the friendships you've made in your time as a cyclist.
Before I was a cyclist I had few friends. Surfers here hate each other. (Although recently I heard that's changed.) Since I've become a cyclist I have tons of friends and I make new friendships all the time.
I was surprised to learn from a friend that I have a reputation for having lots of friends.
I would have never thought that I would be perceived like that. I had always been such a loner.
The point is that having friends, their love and affection, is a good thing. It's one of the things that's going to help me get well. It can work for you too.
Another thing that I've done is to pray. If you can humble yourself enough to pray then you will be humble enough to recognize and accept help in whatever form it takes. Maybe it's only in teeny tiny ways but it helps. Right now it's still an uphill battle for me. To make matters worse I'm not a very good climber. But if I keep going I'll make it to the top and I'll be able to enjoy the accomplishment.
Keep going Graeme
From: Tony Davis
Graeme, I wish you well and for a healthy recovery The climb down the ladder can be as hard as the climb to the top! You are an innovator of our sport and for this we value you But no where as much as you family
There is life after cycling I am sure of it. All the health Graeme.
From: Simon Day
Graeme, You're pure magic as planet earth's cycling superman, A gutsy pioneer who's given inspiration to many a fan You'll be always on my podium of who've dared to be true Best wishes sincerely, in whatever you pursue
From: Spencer Whitney
We love you Graeme - look after yourself - there are lots of great years ahead for you - on and off the bike...
The Whitney family
From: West Kent Road Club
To Graeme, Ann and family,
All at West Kent Road Club (North West Kent) send you our best wishes and hope that things can be sorted out soon. Graeme certainly shook up the cycling world with his revolutionary riding positions and thus enabled the world hour record, as it was then, to take a couple of giant leaps forward.
We hope Graeme will get back on his bike or take up other exercise to control the problem.
Best wishes and a speedy recovery
West Kent Road Club
From: Teresa & Mick Day
Dear Graeme, This probably won't help, but I wanted to tell you anyway. You are an inspirational figure to me and to many more - not just for your astonishing athletic performances (which I suspect we haven't seen the last of), but also because you have done things your way, thinking through your own solutions from first principles rather than merely accepting the received wisdom. As a philosophy teacher as well as a cycling enthusiast, it's this creative innovation that has always got me excited when I've read about you, and for that reason, as well as your actual physical exploits, you will never be forgotten.
Hope it all works out okay - I'm sure we haven't heard the last from you.
From: Ross Kennedy
Please wish Mr Obree a fast recovery. He was and is an enormous talent that should be used to cycling's betterment.
Always controversial, always exciting and always innovative. A rare combination. By the way the oft quoted use of washing machine parts was I believe not true but non the less additive to the legend.
Back in the late 80's and early 90's Mr Obree's talents were mythical as he typically destroyed the field in Scotland. In England with the exception of the unbelievably talented Dave Lloyd nobody even came close to competing with him for headlines.
We need more riders like Graeme and Dave to make the TTs more exciting in the UK. I recall that people would show up in droves to watch events rather than simply the competitors. Each time they rode they would have new bikes, new parts of bikes that added to the mystique. They were always onto the cutting edge. I recall one time watching Dave Lloyd win the Brittania Trophy in Wales on a particularly horrible day where crowds were several people deep just to watch the man in a time trial. The excitement was as high as the legendary 1989 time trial by LeMond into Paris.
Graeme Obree was the same. Folks would show up in the hundreds to see how much he would win a time trial by.
Our Sport needs that. Our sport needs people like Graeme and Dave. Dave was just recognized by Cyclesport Magazine, shouldn't the same be done for Mr Obree.
For the sport to thrive we should look to why these guys were so exciting to watch and why we should celebrate their presence amongst us. Sure we can use their talents to help the next generation up the ladder rather than casting them into the anonymity and potentially into depression.
From: Matthew Buckun
Mr Obree, there is a classic saying: Live to ride/Ride to Live. I think the "Live to Ride" part of that quote is the better part. There are many open roads out there waiting for you and your bike.
Matthew C. Buckun
From: Robin Cooney
Here's wishing a great rider a speedy recovery and a future back in cycling. British cycling or any top team should be queuing to offer you a top coaching job.
From: Ron Cheatley
hi Graeme---sorry to hear you have not been well mate---I/m sure everything will be a lot better from now on---you have been such an inspiration to so many over the years and I know you will be in the future too----mate you are a legend and we look forward to you visiting us again in NZ and having some good laughs and a bit of fishing. Keep well and keep positive----
From: Mike Price
Dear Graeme, You have had some tough battles in your time. Remember the hassles with the UCI over bike design. You rose above it all then. You can do it again. Just believe in yourself. Best wishes.
From: Rodrigo Musalem
Graeme, If you come to read this message, please listen. Just believe half of what psychiatrists say to you. Indeed, there is a chemical de-compensation for cyclists when they stop racing, for example Thierry Claveroylat committed suicide when he was retired. I have also met two ex-cyclists with similar problems, and my self too. I don't think that what I read its true for you, that your cycling years hide your problems.... its the other way around. The proof is that with such problems is really impossible to get any good physical level, an average doctor or psychiatrist would never understand this because they have no idea about the strain that this sport puts on the mind and body of any serious cyclist.
Likely problems would be that you had stopped or diminished dramatically your weekly kilometer schedule? The best thing to do in that case is to retake cycling slowly, but only after you feel like doing it again. Just a few kilometers every now and then.
Second, just change your living environment if that's possible. It is really great to move to a new city or house if you had had such problems. You will have to start a new life.
Third, if you are getting medicines keep taking them, but don't talk too much with psychiatrists because, probably, they are only thinking about your brain chemical functioning, and relating what they see with what they have learnt in university, which is not always right... Remember they don't even know how 80% of the brain functions!
Please take care, be courageous and patient, it will take a year or two to get well, and most of all, WE ARE ALL CHEERING for your recovery!
From: Paul F Doust
Just a quick one.
Graeme, hope you are feeling better. I was gobsmacked when I read of what happened.
From: Colin Deans
I officiated the day you won your SCU "10" down here at Hawick, and you've passed me a couple of times in TT's in the past and I am just full of admiration for what you then achieved on the World stage. You made the whole world take notice despite the cycling world putting obstacles in your way. You've got your own way and long may it continue. You've given us so much enjoyment from your efforts over the years I sincerely hope you can overcome your current problems.
The last month's letters