Cycling: Boardman betrays lack of practice

CHRIS BOARDMAN'S return to the track discipline that gave him Olympic and world gold was as short-lived as he had forecast it would be.

As quickly as he bowed out of the world 4,000 metres pursuit medal battle yesterday, he realigned his sights on another golden target, the world road time-trial championship at Valkenburg, Netherlands, in October. "I am up for that, and I will ride the Vuelta a Espana [Tour of Spain] as preparation for it," said Boardman after clocking a 4,000 metres pursuit time that was some 17 seconds slower than his 1996 world record of 4min 11.114sec.

The world pursuit champion in 1994 and 1996 and Barcelona Olympic champion was almost 10 seconds slower yesterday than the top qualifying time, 4min 19.324sec, set by his former team-mate, Francis Moreau of France. The defending champion, Philippe Ermenault, had to settle for second place behind Moreau, a world champion in the sprint event in 1991.The top four in qualifying advanced to the semi-finals but Boardman was left well down the field in 12th place.

"I feel bad about it because I did not come up with the goods. Especially as I told my manager, Roger Legeay, that I was ready for it and he set aside staff to help me," he said. "I needed a lot of luck and perhaps I was a little arrogant to think that I could be competitive. Now I don't have the explosivity necessary for successful pursuiting."

He added: "It was just as I feared. I was never able to find my rhythm. I did not come into the championships in the best of form and even during the warm-up I could feel I was not going to have a fast time."

Boardman also revealed that a crash in wet conditions while training in England last Friday had hindered his build-up. He had warned on Tuesday that, after five weeks out of action following a crash early in the Tour de France, he had had only four days of track training.

"May be one day I will return to pursuiting, and do things properly, but now my target is the world time trial title," he said.

He won that title in Sicily in 1994 and over the past two years has taken silver and bronze.

In the pursuit semi-finals, Philippe Ermenault beat Alexander Simonenko, of Ukraine, to set up an all-French final against Francis Moreau, who beat Germany's Robert Bartko.

In the women's events, France's Felicia Ballanger, who has won six world titles over the last three years, led the way in the sprint qualifying. Her time of 11.259sec over the 200m was the best and advanced he directly to the last eight, along with her main rival, Australia's Michelle Ferris.

Results, Digest, page 23

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