Cycling: Tour is the priority for Boardman

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The Independent Online
Chris Boardman's remarkable first full professional season may have left his many followers in the clouds, but the double world champion is anxious to bring one of them - his team manager, Roger Legay - down to sea level.

Now as an ackowledged team leader for the French squad, GAN, Boardman's opinion carries more weight - especially following the retirement of Greg LeMond, three times the winner of the Tour de France.

However, Boardman and Legay, who agree on most matters cycling, cannot see eye to eye on the world hour record.

"It's a bone of contention between us, but with a few smiles," said Boardman, who broke the record in 1993. "Roger wants me to attack the record at altitude, but to me that is almost like cheating.

"Tony Rominger set his figures [55.291km] on the Bordeaux track, and as that challenge was laid at sea level that is where I feel it is correct to attack it.

"Roger is more confident than me about the record. I am not yet capable of such a performance. It may take eight months, two years or never, and there is only a 30 per cent chance of my attacking it this year.

"I will make a decision after the Tour de France. The Tour is my No 1 objective now and for the rest of my career. I have never said that I will win it but I want to try. A year ago I would never have considered saying such a thing."

Three days as tour leader on his debut followed by two world titles in Sicily piled on the pressure, but Boardman remains unruffled.

"I have made a rod for my own back. It's a nice problem to have and if at the world championships I only win one title it will probably be seen as a failure."

He and Legay are not exactly in line on the Tour either. "He wants me just to complete the three weeks, but I want to finish in the first ten - but then he never puts on the pressure," Boardman said.

Last year Boardman quit before the race reached the mountains because of fatigue from high temperatures. Now he has to learn how to handle the Alps and Pyrenees.

"He has the ability and temperament necessary for a Tour winner," said Eddy Merckx, the Belgian who won five of them. "He must, however, come to terms with the mountains. It's crucial."

So Boardman's formula for more Tour success is to give himself a hot and arduous build-up. He will race where there are mountains and heat and he will base himself at Nice, to be close to both, rather than return to his Wirral home as he did last year.

"The heat sapped me in the Tour but with my trainer, Peter Keen, I've analysed what went wrong," Boardman said. "It was physiological. In fact the Tour gave us a lot of valuable research towards my improvement."

The season opens next month but already Boardman has lost two races from his programme. His team were too late to enter an oversubscribed Tour of Muircia in Spain, where he performed well last year, and the loss of the Kellogg's Tour of Britain has robbed him of the chance to parade before the home fans.