Boardman frustrated by rain

Cycling
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The Independent Online
There is a down-side to jubilation. Especially when a competitor has peaked with Olympic gold, a world record, and a yellow-jersey winning debut in the Tour de France. Like Chris Boardman.

His team-mate Stephane Heulot is wearing the leader's colours, Frederic Moncassin has switched from yellow to the green jersey of top points-scorer, and their GAN squad is the top team of the Tour. The Briton is the team leader, and he is frustrated. "I am just not firing. I am missing about five per cent of my form and in the Tour you need 110 per cent.

"It is annoying and I cannot find any reason for it. I am not ill. At first I thought my chest infection had returned. I reached a peak and then I went backwards.

"As an individual who likes to win it is harder to face when your team- mate has the yellow jersey. I am happy for him and it is great for the team, but it is difficult for me to accept.

"Stephane is going great, so I will be working for him, but I am missing that bit of form."

Yesterday at Besancon the Dutchman Jeroen Blijlevens beat Moncassin in the victory sprint. It hardly ruffled GAN, but Heulot is realistic about Tour life. "I am living a dream. I just hope that it will last as long as possible."

Success has not spoiled Boardman. The consuming urge to triumph is what has helped drive him to the pinnacle. Anything less feels like failure.

His consolation is that there is still time to pick up the missing pace. "It depends how the racing develops. If you have to work hard for a few days you cannot get into the race. You just take more of a hammering than the others."

With rain lashing the huddled spectators between splashes of sunshine, the day was not to Boardman's liking. "This weather is depressing, and it is dangerous all day. We are riding on our nerves," he said as the wind whipped up waves on the Madine lake at the start. "If you haven't got the legs to zip around and you make one mistake it's pretty final."

Villages around the route summed up the day admirably as Gray was followed by Void, before later turning right for Miserey.

The race speed just crept past 26kph in the first hour which after Wednesday's 40kph was disheartening particularly for the soaked crowds who had to wait longer for a glimpse of their favourites as the race passed by.

Those who blinked as the Tour passed on Wednesday missed it. "Roger Legeay (the GAN manager) has never seen pace like that," Boardman said. "We averaged 60 kph for an hour in strong cross and headwinds."

Yesterday was different, and the riders finished an hour behind schedule. The day opened with Mario Cipollini, Monday's stage-winner, withdrawing because of a high temperature and further down the road to Besancon Jan Svorada, the Czech who bounced at Wednesday's finish, pulled out. Both have Georgia on their minds, and Cipollini declared that once he was better he would be training hard for the Olympic road race.

Their departure opened the way for Blijlevens. After two second places in sprints he broke through after 242 kilometres, punctuated by solo bids and several crashes.

After Vyacheslav Ekimov had tried twice to open Russia's account, Moncassin hit the front 500 metres from the line, but there was no holding Blijlevens.

TOUR DE FRANCE Fifth stage (242km, Lac de Madine to Besancon): 1 J Blijlevens (Neth, TVM) 6hr 55min 53 sec; 2 F Moncassin (Fr, GAN); 3 E Zabel (Ger, Deutsche Telekom); 4 M Traversoni (It, Carrera); 5 D Abdoujaparov (Uzbek, Refin); 6 A Ferrigato (It, Roslotto); 7 F Baldato (It, MG Technogym); 8 C Camin (It, Brescialat); 9 N Minali (It, Gewiss); 10 Z Spruch (Pol, Panaria); 11 A Piziks (Lith, Rabobank); 12 A Tchmil (Ukr, Lotto); 13 E Magnien (Fr, Festina); 14 F Simon (Fr, GA); 15 L van Bon (Neth, Rabobank); 16 G Hincapie (US, Motorola); 17 M Fincato (It, Roslotto); 18 M Piccoli (It, Brescialat); 19 R Sorensen (Den, Rabobank); 20 F Roscioli (It) Refin all same time. Overall standings: 1 S Heulot (Fr, GAN) 29hr 49min 48sec; 2 Piccoli +20sec; 3 C Saugrain (Fr, Aubervilliers) +34; 4 R Jaermann (Swit, MG Technogym) same time; 5 D Nelissen (Neth, Rabobank) +1:35; 6 Moncassin 3:32; 7 A Zuelle (Swit, ONCE) +4:05; 8 Y Berzin (Rus, Gewiss) +4:08; 9 A Olano (Sp, Mapei) +4:12; 10 Bj Riis (Den, Deutsche Telekom) +4:16; 11 M Indurain (Sp, Banesto) +4:17; 12 L Jalabert (Fr, ONCE) +4:20; 13 C Boardman (GB, GAN +4:22; 14 T Rominger (Swit, Mapei) +4:24; 15 M Mauri (Sp, ONCE) +4:26; 16 E Dekker (Neth, Rabobank) +4:31; 17 M Gualdi (It, Polti) +4:32; 18 P Savoldelli (It, Roslotto) +4:34 ; 19 J Skibby (Den, TVM) +4:35; 20 Tchmil +4:36.

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