Boardman decides to leaves pursuers behind

Robin Nicholl on the cyclist who became a celebrity three years ago and is now planning a new route to Olympic gold
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The Independent Online
Olympic gold is on Chris Boardman's 1996 racing agenda but he has surrendered the chance to defend the Olympic track title that lifted him from cyclist to celebrity in 1992.

After ending an injury-wrecked season with an unexpected victory over Graeme Obree, the world pursuit champion, in Paris on Monday, he said that he would not contest Britain's only place in the 4,000 metres in Atlanta.

"It's disappointing for me but that is life. It would not be fair of me to challenge when we have someone capable of winning Olympic gold," Boardman said after beating Obree in a pursuit challenge ruined by the Scot breaking his special bike.

"I did not particularly want to race against Graeme with his current form but my team boss wanted me to do the best I could. I don't like being cannon fodder but then I was very lucky. I was presented with an opportunity and grabbed it with both hands when Graeme had to ride an unfamiliar bike."

Now Boardman's aims are for an even harder Olympic title, the road time trial. "Winning it will be against the best. It's going to be harder than the pursuit, particularly with riders such as Miguel Indurain and Abraham Olano about.

"I was the world time trial champion last year but Indurain is the best time triallist in the world. The Olympics are something special," Boardman said. "But the Tour de France is everything."

He has provided a startling open to the last two Tours. In his 1993 debut he took the yellow jersey of race leader when he won the opening time trial in Lille, beating Indurain.

This July he crashed on the third day, breaking his ankle and a wrist. Gone were his plans for more yellow jersey time, and also the chance to defend his two world titles.

Boardman started his comeback three months after the accident with a win in a time trial within pedalling distance of his Merseyside home, and ended his three-week return with another at the Bercy indoor track in Paris.

Next year is already mapped out for Boardman, with an opening campaign that includes classics such as the Milan to San Remo.

There are two major Belgian races Boardman feels are in his range in that first phase: the Fleche Walloon and the Liege to Bastogne and back classic. After a five-week break from racing he starts his Tour build- up. "I have fewer races in my season than anyone else in my team but I have to come up with the results.

"Since the accident I have missed success and being fit. Racing, I don't miss. It's hard and it hurts. Now I have a lot of work ahead of me this winter to be ready in time."

Boardman consoles himself with the thought that: "the Tour is not exactly the right preparation for the Olympic pursuit." That takes place five days after the Tour finishes - but he still has designs on a pursuit crown.

"As far as furthering my career, pursuit racing doesn't mean much for business or as far as the rest of the world is concerned. I like it, though," Boardman said. He intends to challenge Obree for the world pursuit title when the track championships are staged in Manchester next August.