PASSED/FAILED: Chris Boardman

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The Independent Online
Chris Boardman, 29, is Britain's leading cyclist. In the 1992 Barcelona Olympics he achieved a gold medal and the 4000 metre record. In 1993 he won the World Hour Record, turned professional and was awarded the MBE. He is the subject of `The Fastest Man on Two Wheels', by Phil Ligget. He has competed in the Tour de France four times and leaves today for the Vuelta, the tour of Spain.

First Gear? My first bike was a blue Raleigh Chopper with big fat tyres. I recall taking the stabilisers off and throwing them in the dustbin. I was shouted at for making a noise; it was five in the morning. I was going off with my father, who was a racing cyclist. He had been shortlisted for the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 but chose to marry my mother instead.

Chain Gang? I am mildly dyslexic and retaining information is a frustrating problem. This was not picked up, as it has been for my son who is battling with it now and goes to a very good school. I was just someone with a bad memory. I now organise my life in a very structured way. I plan and make notes. In four years my cycling comes to an end - that's what I've planned - and then I do something sensible. I think you'll find that other riders may be mentally more healthy than me; I'm very intense about what I do. Some riders want desperately to win; some need to win. I fall into the latter category.

Little Wheel? I went to Hoylake Primary School in the Wirral, where I still live. I remember pulling a tooth out in class; Mrs Gatenby wasn't quite as amused about it as I was. Then I went to Hoylake Holy Trinity Junior School. I failed the 11-Plus and went to Hilbre Secondary School. As I got older, I realised I didn't have much in common with the people at school, which was sad. I was into sport - first swimming and, from 13, cycling - and the others were into cars and drinking: normal people. I was always particularly hopeless at sports days: all that running while balancing eggs on spoons. I would have liked time out during PE sessions to ride my bike but the school saw it as an insurance hassle.

Gear Change? I didn't really enjoy school and couldn't wait to leave. I passed two O-levels at a low grade and eight CSEs. Then I went on and studied carpentry at Withens Lane College, which I loved, and got a City & Guilds in Cabinet Making. I worked as a cabinet maker for one or two years. Before my first Tour de France, I took private French lessons.

Nose To The Wheels? With Peter Keen, my coach, we did a lot of research in the labs of Brighton University: batteries of physiological tests on treadmills and a specially adapted bicycle. The book I did with Phil Ligget, The Fastest Man on Two Wheels, was a coffee-table book with a foreword by Mick Jagger. We're possibly doing another one, a more technical, how-you-do-it book.

Top Gear? Ironically, I have been given some of the highest academic orders. I have an honorary MSc from Liverpool, my local university. I also have an honorary doctorate from Brighton University. It's a point of some amusement to me that Peter, who is a lecturer there, has never got round to taking his doctorate. In correspondence with him, I insist he addresses me as Dr Boardman!

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