Cycling: Boardman aims for fresh start

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The Independent Online
CHRIS BOARDMAN lines up for today's Tour of Romandie in Basle eager to taste victory after suffering illness and poor form for much of the year.

Last year he was second in the six-day Swiss race, but it was to be a disappointing season for a rider who, in six years, has been a world and Olympic champion, worn the yellow jersey of a Tour de France leader, and set world records.

"I was scarred by poor results and when I got ill early in the season I ignored it somewhat and pushed on with the training," said Boardman. "That was a mistake."

Deciding that he had over-trained, Boardman reviewed his preparation for races, resulting in a change of his methods: "We cut out the hard two-to-three-hour rides. Those were the ones that did the damage," he said.

In February Boardman was felled by a bout of influenza: "It hit hard and for a lot longer than I wanted. It left me down for weeks, and only now am I feeling good and consistent," he said. "My condition is the best it has been all season. I just need a chance to prove it in races. The Tour of Romandie has two time trials, so it should be a good race for me."

To win a tour of Romandie's class is a remaining ambition for Boardman, who will be 30 in August: "A stage race of that quality is within my capabilities. It is a big challenge, but if everything is right..."

Last year he won the time trials at either end of the race and went on to triumph for a second time in the Tour de France's curtain-raising time trial in Rouen. The Tour is the natural pinnacle of his year.

"It is not the initial objective to go for the overall classification, so that takes the pressure off me," he said.

Boardman ended his "poor" year with third place in the world time trial championship in San Sebastian to complete a set of gold, silver, and bronze medals in the discipline.

"That medal was good, but I have a score to settle," he said. "I want to win the title again, but it is important that all the major players are there this year when it happens, if it happens."

Boardman has come back from worse than his recent run of misfortune. After a three-year spell that saw him take Olympic gold in the 4,000 metres pursuit on the Barcelona track in 1992, break the world hour record in 1993, take the world pursuit and the road time trial titles and wear the coveted Tour de France yellow jersey on his debut in 1994, the 1995 Tour broke his progress.

He crashed within minutes of starting his second Tour, fracturing a wrist and an ankle. Yet the next year Boardman recaptured the world hour record and the world pursuit crown at the Manchester track.