Cycling: Sciandri and Boardman set for hard slog

The line between misery and triumph is a fine thread in major bike racing, and Sunday's British round of the World Cup, the Rochester International Classic in Kent, is sure to twang that thread.

Rochester's most celebrated resident, Charles Dickens, would have found several story-lines somewhere among a record line-up of 152 riders who endure a season stretching from February to October.

Max Sciandri, however, would rather not relate too much about last year in Leeds. With only Andrea Ferrigato to beat he made a hash of his opportunity for a second victory in the British round, and went missing when it was time to face the public on the podium.

As the embarrassment faded, Sciandri, British by birth and racing licence but still proudly Italian, could claim that a first and a second in consecutive years is hardly failure.

Similarly there was his Atlanta experience when faced with two to beat for Olympic gold in the road race, Sciandri was outflanked. It was still Britain's first Olympic road race medal for 40 years.

Winning is what matters, and Sciandri will be motivated for his one and only appearance before "home" crowds when the Classic leaves the shadow of Rochester Castle.

This year the Cup scene has switched from the Yorkshire moorlands to the Garden of England where point-pickers may find the flatter terrain yields more for faster finishers than hard sloggers.

Dickens campaigned in his novels against suffering and misery. He wrote Hard Times and Sunday will provide more as the 242.3 kilometre (150 mile) race unfolds on the roads of Kent, but Chris Boardman has had harder times, and they are still not over.

Rebuilding after injuring his neck and pulling out of the Tour de France, Boardman has been training in North Wales this week.

Two days after his Rochester appearance, Boardman starts the four-day Tour du Limousin in France then goes on to next weekend's World Cup round, the Grand Prix Suisse in Zurich.

His real goal is the world time trial championship in Spain in October, and before that three exacting weeks in the Tour of Spain.

It was in Spain last Sunday that Rolf Sorensen snatched back the Cup lead as he stepped up his hunt for points. "I am going all out in the August races. After that I will know what my chances are," said the Dane.

Apart from Sunday's race he has another August opportunity in the GP Suisse. He has taken points from all six rounds, and leads by 16 from Italy's Michele Bartoli, who nudged him from the top position in April.

Twice he has finished third overall, and in 1991 a Tour de France crash ended his hopes of retaining the Cup leader's jersey.

Sorensen's need to pile up the points is matched only by the desire of the world champion, Johan Museeuw, for victory. His dreams of a hat-trick in the series faded rapidly when the Belgian scored in only two of the earlier rounds.

Bjarne Riis, too, has endured the highs and lows. A year after he was hailed as Denmark's first Tour de France winner, the Dane suffered a stomach ailment that brought him close to quitting the 1997 Tour.

He comes to Rochester with a Cup victory in April's Amstel Gold race, but little hope of another 100 points maximum after an exhausting Tour.

There is a sad end, too, for the Classic organisers. After nine years Britain is losing its place on the Cup calendar to a German race.

ROCHESTER FACT FILE

City centre timetable

08.15 Signing on at race start, the Esplanade in Rochester city centre. 09.20 Riders assemble at start line. 09.30 RACE START. 10.30 Bollywood Band in concert. 10.22 Race re-enters finishing circuit. 10.50 Samba group and Brazilian dancers in concert. 11.15 Invicta Rig Show commences. 12.00 Signing on for Rochester City Centre Grand Prix. 12.30 City Centre Grand Prix starts. 13.30 City Centre Grand Prix finishes. 13.40 Samba Bangra Meltdown in concert. 14.00 Rochester International Classic live on giant screen. 14.12 Race Cavalcade arrives. 15.04 Rochester International Classic first passage through city centre. 15.15 Second passage. 15.25 Third passage. 15.36 Scheduled race finish. 15.45 Presentations. 16.00 Air Display by Royal Navy Swordfish and Sukhoi Aerobatic Duo.

Estimated times of

arrival on the course

(time given is for the main field; the cavalcade will arrive 20 minutes earlier)

9.50 High Halstow. 10.04 Station Road. 10.15 Brompton Farm Road. 10.22 Back into the Esplanade (sprint). 10.25 Shorts Way. 10.35 Burham Village. 10.45 Aylesford village. 10.53 Tonbridge Road (A26). 11.01 Ewell Lane (B2163). 11.14 Marlpit. 11.20 Sutton Vallance. 11.49 Tenterden. 12.04 Wittersham. 12.17 Appledore. 12.30 A2070. 12.36 St Mary in the Marsh. 12.46 Newchurch. 13.00 Lower Wall Road. 13.06 Lympne Hill (climb). 13.15 Sellindge. 13.34 Petham. 13.47 A28. 13.52 Bilting. 13.55 White Hill (climb). 14.07 Charing. 14.18 Harrietsham. 14.34 Boxley Hill (climb). 14.50 Capstone Road. 15.01 Borstal. 15.03 The Esplanade. 15.36 Race finish.

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