Cycling / Tour de France: Boardman's heroic hour on the boards: Vintage performances in Bordeaux as Britain's golden Olympian makes a new mark while the pigeon-fancier from Uzbekistan flies high

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The Independent Online
CHRIS BOARDMAN became a legend in cycling yesterday by becoming the first man to break through 52 kilometres for the world hour record at the velodrome here.

Boardman, the Olympic pursuit champion, had to abandon his target of 52.5km after feeling dizzy because of the humidity in the indoor stadium where even spectators were sweating. The Merseysider covered 52.270km (32.6 miles) to overtake convincingly Graeme Obree's record of 51.596, which the Scot set in Hamar, Norway, six days previously. It was 208 laps of class riding at 10am, watched by 2,000 specators, including coachloads of British supporters.

'I was impressed by Obree's record but I knew I could beat it,' Boardman said. 'I said I would go for the record six months ago, long before him.' He made a relatively slow start and was trailing Obree by 1.5 seconds after 5km. 'I was very fit and I felt better and better,' he said. 'My goal was 52.5km. After half an hour, I thought I could make it but I had to slow down slightly towards the end.'

At the 40km stage, with his trainer, Peter Keen, keeping him perfectly informed of his progress, Boardman had a comfortable 33 seconds in hand and there there was little doubt that the record was doomed - the only question was if he could force himself through the 52km barrier.

'We're not disappointed,' Obree's manager, Vic Haynes, said. 'Records are there to be broken. It's his job. We always thought Chris would break it. He's actually done us a favour. It gives us a good reason to do it again.' Haynes has pencilled in Stuttgart for Obree's next bid in early September.

Unlike Obree, who used a home-made bike including parts of his washing machine to surpass the mark set by the Italian, Francesco Moser, in 1984, Boardman rode a revolutionary machine similar to the one which helped him to Olympic victory.

'It's the best bike I've ever used,' he said. 'It's 2kg lighter than the one I had in Barcelona.' Lotus, which designed the bike Boardman used at the Olympics, declined to help him for his assault on the one-hour record and the British rider turned to the French firm, Corima. 'It's a pity Lotus didn't believe in this record,' he said. 'Hardly anybody did and it was very difficult to find sponsors.'

'I would like to try again,' Boardman said. 'Not too soon, but if there is the possibility of a sponsor I would like to go for the record at altitude. If there are offers I would be ready to turn professional.'

Obree beat Moser's record, which was set at altitude in Mexico in 1984, when there were separate records for outdoor and indoor. Last year the governing body, the Union Cycliste International, reduced the records to one level whether at altitude or indoor, and Moser was critical of their decision, particularly after Obree beat his mark indoors in Norway.

Boardman believes the Spaniard, Miguel Indurain, a time-trial specialist, would probably eclipse his mark. 'I wanted to have a go at it before him because he will probably put it out of reach,' he said.

One of the first to react to the new mark was the five-times winner of the Tour de France, Bernard Hinault. He said: 'I'm surprised by the distance he beat the old record. Nearly 700 metres - that's enormous.

'He achieved that because he is a top-class rider who prepared himself scientifically. This record can be compared to those of Eddy Merckx and Moser. Today I can only see Indurain being able to take it higher. Before, the target was 50km, now it's 55.'

For Boardman and Obree their immediate concerns are the eight-day British Track Championships, which begin at Leicester today. Obree will be on the Saffron Lane track for the opening session, a qualifying time trial for the 4,000m individual pursuit, which he must win to gain selection in that event for next month's world championships.

(Photograph omitted)

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