Cycling Boardman awaits the verdict

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Cycling

ROBIN NICHOLL

reports from Lannion, Brittany

Chris Boardman waits to hear a specialist's verdict after an operation to pin his ankle fractured in the opening minutes of the Tour de France.

"Then they should have a better idea of how long his recovery should take," Dr Gerard Porte, the head of the Tour medical team, said. "Normally it needs three months for such a double fracture, and the first two months means complete rest."

Boardman, who also has a fractured wrist, was talking optimistically of six to eight weeks before he can return. He was said to be in a "satisfactory" condition following the 90-minute operation last night at Arrowe Park Hospital on The Wirral, where many of his physiological tests were carried out in his build-up to winning Olympic gold and world titles, and his memorable Tour debut last year.

Boardman was injured at St Brieuc on Saturday. He was flown from Dinard to Manchester yesterday, and, before leaving, said: "The main reason I fell was because it was dark and I could not see where the slippery patches were on the road.

"In the daylight it is easy to spot them, but then I was also to blame. I was pushing it a bit too hard, doing about 80kph downhill, when the back wheel slipped away. I slid towards the barriers and then the team car hit me as well.

"It could take six to eight weeks to get back from this. I have never had bad crash until now. I have to look to the future. The world championship is in October, and I may ride the Tour of Spain."

Now he plans to make the most of the enforced rest by studying French, and spending more time with his three children, Edward, Harriet, and George.

Italy's Fabio Baldato produced the winning answer when the Tour de France passed through the homeland of Sienkiewicz, the author of Quo Vadis. He squeezed past a determined Laurent Jalabert and edged out Djamolidine Abdoujaparov to mark his Tour debut with victory in an uphill finish to the 233km race at Lannion.

The Dutchman, Erik Dekker, went forth believing that he had the answer to "quo vadis?" As he passed through Ploumanac, the author's birthplace, a chasing pack began to change his mind. Then, with the fast finishers getting itchy, he got the thumbs down 19km from the finish after a solo of 50km.

Once the team-mates of the top sprinters got to the front and drove the pace hard, it was destined to be a mass sprint. Then the Italian, Claudio Chiappuci, tried his third and final bid for freedom, only to be caught before the fluttering red pennant that signals the final kilometre.

It needed a Roman answer to Siekiewicz's question, and appropriately it was Baldato, but it cost Jalabert a crucial eight seconds' worth of time bonus that would have made him the Tour leader.

That is the difference between the time deductions given to first and second, but Jalabert had his consolations. Having clawed back 18 seconds off his overnight deficit, the Frenchman rose to within seven seconds of the leader, Jacky Durand.

Jalabert also closed to within one point of Baldato in the battle for the green jersey. All his gains were made through sprinting - yet a year ago he was carried from the Tour after a finishing sprint went painfully wrong, breaking his jaw.

Baldato conceded: "Jalabert is favourite for the jersey. My first Tour goal was to win a stage. Now I want to complete the full distance."

Today's 235 kilometres from Perros Guirec to Vitre is another stage that could offer Jalabert his chance.

TOUR DE FRANCE First stage (233.5km, Dinan to Lannion): 1 F Baldato (It) 5hr 49min 18sec (average 40.108kmh); 2 L Jalabert (Fr); 3 D Abdoujaparov (Uzb); 4 A Ferrigato (It); 5 G Lombardi (It); 6 T Rominger (Swit); 7 J Museeuw (Bel); 8 B Thibout (Fr); 9 B Riis (Den); 10 A Gonchenkov (Ukr); 11 F Simon (Fr); 12 M Indurain (Sp); 13 L Brochard (Fr); 14 A Mejia (Col); 15 J-C Robin (Fr); 16 E Berzin (Rus); 17 A Zulle (Swit); 18 A Tchmil (Rus); 19 E Zabel (Ger); 20 D Baldinger (Ger); 21 M Mauri (Sp); 22 L Armstrong (US); 23 L Dufaux (Swit); 24 A Tafi (It); 25 R Virenque (Fr); 26 M Sciandri (GB); 27 T Laurent (Fr); 28 F Escartin (Sp); 29 A Gonzales (Sp); 30 A Piziks (Lith) all same time. Selected: 69 S Yates (GB) +24sec. Overall standings: 1 J Durand (Fr) 5hr 58min 18sec; 2 L Brochard (Fr) +2sec; 3 T Laurent (Fr) +2; 4 A Gonzales (Sp) +4; 5 F Andreu (US) +5; 6 L Jalabert (Fr) +7; 7 B Thibout (Fr) +9; 8 Y Ledanois (Fr) +13; 9 V Aparicio (Sp) +13; 10 J Mauleon (Sp) +18.

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