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As he got ready to tape up his calves (read on…!) ahead of his successful roller-racing record attempt on Guy Martin’s ‘Speed’ bike, we grabbed a coffee with Scottish track sprinting legend Craig MacLean MBE at Look Mum No Hands, Hackney.
Craig will be the star rider at the Rollapaluza/National Cycling Centre event on 28 June, so we were there primarily to interview him about the highlights of his career to-date – including Olympic, Paralympic and World Championship medals – and his experiences of the cut-and-thrust of racing in Japan’s combative Keirin scene.
The full interview will appear in the official event programme (if you can’t make it to the event, look out on this blog nearer the time of the event for a link to the digital version), in the meantime here’s a quick snippet of our Q&A:
SM: From a riders point-of-view how would you sum up the experience of Keirin racing in Japan?
Craig Maclean MBE: “It’s just bizarre. Coming from the West and going out there, before you get your racing licence you get your Visa and on there you’re classed as an entertainer. And that’s how they see it – the riders are more like performers than athletes.”
SM: You went out there four times did you? Was that consecutive years?
CM: “Yes – 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007. The first time I went out there I broke my collarbone in the first race. One race in and that was me home. That was a bit disappointing. There’s a sort of unwritten rule out there that if you crash or you can’t complete the series, quite often they don’t invite you back. Luckily that didn’t happen to me – I got the chance to compete again.”
SM: For tonight’s record attempt you’ll be on the rollers with Guy Martin’s ‘speed’ bike – have you had a chance to test it?
CM: “I’ve only seen it on television, so I’m quite apprehensive. They’ve got an intermediate chainring on it which is sort of diamond-featured, generally my calves stick out so much I can’t generally ride a road bike with a bottle cage so I’m a bit worried my calves are going to get caught up in that.”
In the event, Craig smashed the record – clocking a blistering 500m time of 11.34 seconds (averaging 99.2 mph from a standing start) and hitting 142mph in the maximum speed test – having solved the calf-rubbing issue with every bike mechanic’s best friend: good old gaffer-tape. Nice work Craig – see you in Manchester!