Cycling: Tour de France: Boardman's flying start: British sprinter breaks speed record to lay first claim to yellow jersey

Click to follow
The Independent Online
CHRIS BOARDMAN became only the second Briton to wear the yellow jersey in the Tour de France when he won yesterday's Prologue time trial here. In humid conditions, the 25- year-old Merseysider beat Miguel Indurain, winner of the Tour for the past three years, over the 4.4-mile course on the streets of Lille, using the Lotus- developed bike that helped him to Olympic gold.

'The next thing I would like to do is to take the yellow jersey to England,' Boardman said afterwards. 'It's probably the only time it will go to England in my professional career so we're going to fight very hard to keep it.'

'From now on every day is a bonus for me. There is no longer any pressure on me. It's on Indurain and Rominger. They have to win the Tour. I have hit my objective.'

Tommy Simpson was the first Briton to wear yellow, for one day in the Pyrenees in 1962. Five years later, he died after collapsing on the Ventoux mountain in extreme heat.

Indurain was 15 seconds slower yesterday as Boardman averaged 34mph - a Tour record - to finish in 7min 49sec with Toni Rominger of Switzerland third, 19 seconds slower. Boardman will wear the yellow jersey on today's first road stage, over 145 miles from Lille to Armentieres. Boardman's compatriot Sean Yates, a Tour veteran, was 54th, 51 seconds behind.

To beat Indurain by 15 seconds is impressive, but sprinters can cut that to pieces in a matter of days. ''I have to be very careful of that time gap. My team must help keep the sprinters at bay,' Boardman said. 'I gained valuable experience when I held the leader's yellow jersey in the Dauphine Libere race for two days. In this race you have to be a bit of a racehorse, a decathlete, and a chess player, to survive.'

'It is a bonus for me that the Tour is going to England,' Boardman said. 'I could have gone faster from the start but I did not want to blow up. The Olympics taught me how to handle the pressure, but this is a different league, even to the Olympics.

'I didn't use the brakes today. If I crash, I crash. I was at 101 per cent. For this year my first objective was the prologue. It's like a dream for me. I have always watched the Tour de France and for me to be in it is incredible.'

It was Boardman's 11th victory since he turned professional last September with a winning debut. In his first outing for the French team GAN, he won the Eddy Merckx Grand Prix time trial in Brussels. Two years ago his victory in the Olympic 4,000m pursuit in Barcelona brought Britain's first cycling gold medal for 72 years.

Boardman, a time-trial specialist, was always touted as one of the favourites to take the Prologue after six wins this season, five of them in solo rides. But Indurain, despite being beaten in the Tour of Italy this year, was expected to mount a formidable challenge in a discipline he has dominated since his first Tour de France win in 1991.

The 33-year-old Rominger, however, was also delighted with his performance, which kept him in Indurain's shadow. Rominger enjoyed a tremendous start to the season by winning the Spanish Vuelta, the Paris-Nice and the Tour of the Basque Country, while Indurain suffered his first defeat in a major Tour since the 1991 Tour of Spain when he finished third in the Giro d'Italia earlier this month.

'People are predicting the start of his decline,' his team- mate Gerard Rue, of France, said, 'but I can assure you that he's just as strong as last year and that there's plenty more to come for him. He's hungry.'

The time trial specialists, Alex Zuelle and Armand de las Cuevas of France, considered as possible contenders for victory, had strong rides to finish fourth and fifth respectively.

The Italian Claudio Chiappucci, more at ease in the mountains than in time trials, came a surprising ninth, but there was disappointment for his compatriot Gianni Bugno, who finished in 63rd place, 54 seconds down the field.

(Photograph omitted)

Comments