"I was scarred by the experience," he said. "I would not say it scared me but it has taken away my confidence. I used to attack riders on mountain descents in the rain but now I struggle to stay with them. I find myself looking down watching for manhole covers instead of looking ahead."
In two weeks' time he is having two five-centimetre surgical pins removed from his ankle. "Perhaps after that I can beat this nightmare, and stop thinking about it so much."
His morale fell as fast as the rain when he looked out of his hotel window at breakfast time. "I pulled back the curtains and screamed 'no way.' Three weather forecasts had promised a clear day. Rain was my worst nightmare," he said.
After a viral infection ruined his 1996 Tour, Boardman's mission was to "salvage" his season. He started with a bronze medal in the Olympic time trial, regained the world 4,000 metres pursuit track title, then smashed the world hour record. He won five time trials including the prestigious prizes of the Grand Prix Eddy Merckx, the Telekom Grand Prix, and the Grand Prix des Nations.
That was not enough. He wanted the world time trial crown which he first won in 1994, but yesterday the bespectacled Zulle was 39sec faster. Boardman snatched the silver by two seconds from Zulle's compatriot Tony Rominger, from whom Boardman had taken the hour record last month. Britain's Chris Newton was 24th.