To the Briton's chagrin, the world time trial champion Abraham Olano finished the 52km (32 miles) slog with a surge that edged Boardman out of second place as well to give Spain a one-two and leave the British cycling squad with their second bronze of the Games.
It was a duel to the finish between the five-times Tour de France winner Indurain and the man who brought British cycling a success to savour four years ago in Barcelona. Making his move on the second half of the four-lap ride, Indurain won in 1hr 4min 5sec to beat Olano by 12sec. Boardman, who clocked 1.04:36, did not realise that his chance of a silver medal was disappearing until Olano capped his own second-half surge by charging down the wide finishing straight.
Disappointment did not prevent Boardman being generous in defeat. "I came here for the gold but I will be content with the bronze," he said. "I was beaten by a great man, a nice person, and an outstanding champion. I could not go any faster. I started too fast. It was a mistake really. Then I missed a bend and lost momentum.
"These are the greatest riders in the world, the best athletes of any sport. They are hard men and the difference between the winners and the also-rans is so small. I was fresh and felt good, but Miguel was determined to be an Olympic champion."
With seven kilometres of the Buckhead circuit to cover, Indurain showed the power that has brought him recognition as the world's No1 against the clock, even though Olano took the world title in Colombia last year. For Indurain it was a matter of setting the record straight. Quiet and unassuming as he is, he was smarting after his disappointing Tour de France when the German Tour newcomer Jan Ullrich startled the specialists by winning the time trial.
The Spaniard, who has based his five Tour victories on his remarkable talent in time trials, demonstrated his true ability yesterday. He overturned an 18sec deficit after the first 13km lap where Boardman threw his helmet, which had obviously been stifling him, over the barriers to his team manager Doug Dailey.
Boardman was the fastest through four of the eight time checks, but with a lap of the 13km circuit remaining, Indurain was 12 seconds clear and Olano was poised five seconds behind.
Boardman, who crashed out of the 1995 Tour breaking a wrist and ankle when he skidded on a rain-soaked road, had been nervously anticipating rain. He warned before the start that a wet surface would be treacherous. With the 40 riders split into groups of 10, allowing almost an hour between the end of one group and the start of the next, organisers were gambling with the moody Georgian weather.
They lost. The second group rode into heavy rain and quickly large pools of water made riders wary with each corner. None was more careful than the Belgian Johan Bruyneel, who almost a month ago made a spectacular dive into a ravine on the Tour. Miraculously, he escaped to ride on. His troubles yesterday, however, came from two punctures.
Despite the rain, the Dutchman Hendrik Dekker, the silver medallist in the Barcelona road race four years ago, the German Michael Rich and Poland's Dariusz Baranowski set the standard at 1.07:08, a pace that stayed respectable as top time trialers like Alex Zulle and his Swiss compatriot Tony Rominger and the Russian time trial specialist Yevgeny Berzin failed miserably. It was not until the medallists started their battle that the early leaders' time became ordinary.
In the women's equivalent, ridden over two laps of the course, Zulfia Zabirova upset the established order by revealing unexpected power to thwart the double gold ambitions of Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli, the French first lady of cycling who won the road race here. The Russian clocked 35min 40sec to beat the favourite by 20sec, with Canada's Clara Hughes third. Britain's Yvonne McGregor managed 39:09 to finish in 14th place.Reuse content