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Inverness cyclist Roddy Riddle recalls his Commonwealth Games triumph 25 years later

By Alasdair Fraser

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Under starter's orders. Picture: Peter Ferguson
Under starter's orders. Picture: Peter Ferguson

Former Commonwealth Games cyclist Roddy Riddle remembers the day he became a sporting legend.

IT was the moment a cycling-daft lad from Scaniport became a bona fide Scottish sporting legend.

Roddy Riddle is celebrating 25 years since an incredible feat of endurance saw him shatter cycling’s Scottish hour record then held by The Flying Scotsman himself, Graeme Obree – one of the greatest British pedallers of all time.

With incredible guts and a stubborn refusal to bow to pain, Mr Riddle battered his bike around 46.57km of wooden boards in an agonising 60 minutes of endeavour at Edinburgh’s recently demolished Meadowbank Velodrome.

The August 1995 triumph broke the previous best of 46.39km set by Mr Obree in 1990.

It very nearly broke the heroic Highlander as well.

A plaque marks his record-breaking feat.
A plaque marks his record-breaking feat.

Mr Riddle (52) recalled: “After the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Canada [where he came ninth in the road race], I felt I needed something new to aim for.

“My coach at the time, Professor Richard Davidson, did some power tests and felt I had a very slight percentage chance of breaking the record, but said I’d have to be absolutely on the ball on the day of the record attempt.

“I normally time-trialled at 174 heartbeats per minute (bpm), but during the hour record attempt I averaged 182bpm. That’s how much I had to push my body.

“I was ill for about six weeks afterwards.

“The great Eddie Merckx said every time he broke the world hour record he felt like it took a year off his life.

“I don’t remember the last 13 minutes of it, I was in so much pain.

“They had to carry me off my bike at the finish and then I was put on a plastic chair in the middle of the velodrome – and I fell off that!

“I don’t remember any of this, but I’m told that’s what happened.

“My wife Lynn had to drive us home and then, for probably six weeks, I was totally ill.”

Mr Riddle’s record was broken a year later by Jim Gladwell at 46.65km – a best that still holds its place in the record-books to this day.

But where the Inverness competitor had used a traditional tri-bar cycling position, the Gladwell record was set using the controversial “Superman” shape, since outlawed, yet allowed to stand.

Prof Davidson has since said the rogue technique gave Gladwell a 10 per cent advantage, emphasising just how powerful Mr Riddle’s record performance was.

Mr Riddle retired on a high the year after his success, believing he had fulfilled peak potential after competing for Great Britain that year.

Roddy with brother Kenny Riddl at Bikes of Inverness. Picture: Callum Mackay
Roddy with brother Kenny Riddl at Bikes of Inverness. Picture: Callum Mackay

“I knew I’d got as far as I was ever going to get and it felt like the right time,” he said.

He is co-owner of the Bikes of Inverness shop with cycling brother Kenny.

Diagnosed at 40, in 2017 he became the first athlete with type one diabetes to complete the 350-mile 6633 Arctic Ultra, one of the world’s toughest races.

But few personal achievements top that of 1995.

“The hour record remains very special because, at that point, Graeme Obree was one of the top time trialists in the UK, with a massive rivalry with Chris Boardman.

“I would say the hour record and my Commonwealth Games experience were the two best things to happen in my cycling career.”

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