Cycling: Bitter failure for Boardman as Olano triumphs

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The Independent Online
FOR CHRIS Boardman the sweetness of triumph has been replaced by bitter failure. After three years on the podium at the world time trial championship, he was a dejected also-ran in the rain and cold of the Limburg hills yesterday.

"It was the worst moment in my career," he said after finishing 11th, 1min 50sec behind the new champion, Spain's Abraham Olano. "It is a long time since I worked so hard for something and did so badly. I cannot remember the last time that happened. I am not someone who gives up easily. I am going to rethink and rebuild, and start again."

Boardman crashed out of the Tour de France in the leader's yellow jersey, and five weeks out of action set back his plans for a grand finale to the season.

"When I heard that I was 30 seconds down I lost all morale, and then a puncture just added insult to injury."

Olano was having similar problems a year ago, and even his golden ride yesterday ran into uncertainty over the testing 43.5 kilometres.

A knee problem that troubled him after his victory 11 days ago in the Vuelta a Espana almost stopped the Basque in his tracks.

"It was so painful I thought that I would not make it to the midway point, and that I would have to stop.

"I told myself to forget the pain and give everything. It was most important to win today, but I am not sure if I will contest Sunday's road race championship."

A year ago Olano pulled out of the World Championships because of poor form which was eventually cured by an operation for septic tonsils.

He restored his own confidence and that of Spain when he won the Vuelta, Spain's first triumph since 1991, and yesterday's victory revived memories of the reign of Miguel Indurain. In 1995 Olano beat Indurain for the world road race title, then took silver behind Indurain in the world time trial championship that year, and a year later in the Atlanta Olympics time trial.

Despite his agony yesterday, Olano was still 37 seconds too fast for the silver medallist, Melchior Mauri, who was 10 seconds clear of the Ukrainian Sergei Gontchar. Gontchar pushed Lance Armstrong out of the medals by nine seconds, but the American who a year ago was a cancer patient is more intent on Sunday's road race championship.

"That is my main focus, and I reckon I can be a factor in the race. For me every race is a special victory. I never believed it was possible that I could [again] do well in a world championship.

"I did not feel so good as I expected, but I don't think any rider feels great when it is cold and wet."

Sunday's championship is the pinnacle of the season. Armstrong has had a remarkable comeback, and a gold medal would come five years after he first won the world title in Oslo. It was raining the day he took that gold.

Results, Digest, page 31