Record farewell for Boardman

Most people spend their retirement day getting a gold watch, but Chris Boardman ended his cycling career with a gripping victory against the clock at the Manchester Velodrome here yesterday.

Most people spend their retirement day getting a gold watch, but Chris Boardman ended his cycling career with a gripping victory against the clock at the Manchester Velodrome here yesterday.

"It was a risky way to finish my career, but I wanted to say goodbye properly," said the Merseysider after setting a new world record in a feat of endurance which left him unable to sit down.

The 32-year-old set a new world one-hour best time in the final race of his career, covering 49.441 kilometres (30.723 miles) in that single hour, lowering by 10 metres the record of 49.431km set 28 years ago by Eddy Merckx in Mexico City. The UCI, cycling's world governing body, used Merckx's effort as the standard because it was the last record set on a traditional bike.

Since the advent of hi-tech machinery, the record had risen to more than 56 kilometres, a distance set by Boardman four years ago at the same venue as yesterday's triumph. That particular record has been shelved with a new title, the best hour performance, as the UCI has introduced regulations to bring bikes back to basics.

Riding a basic bike left Boardman in great pain and he conducted a press conference standing up, admitting: "I have never finished a race in such agony. It was because I had to ride in a low crouch on that bike. There were no arm pads like there are on the hi-tech bikes. I did not know that it was going to make that much difference."

Boardman certainly gave the capacity 5,000 crowd its money's worth, as he fought to stay on schedule to beat the distance set by Merckx with the advantage of high altitude. Boardman's wife, Sally Anne, was at the trackside to encourage him over the last few difficult laps.

In the last 10 minutes it was touch and go, but Boardman recovered to snatch the record. "l started to drop away, but the sensation of being on the limit was still there. I just did not panic, but for the last three minutes it was one big sprint. I always thought that it was going to be close."

A short-lived controversy with the UCI was forgotten, as on Thursday Boardman had said that he had only to ride a respectable distance to set the record, arguing that he did not have to beat 49.431kms. Then, less than three hours before the ride, he heard that Merckx's figures were to be his target.

At first the timing officials set the new record as 49.442 kilometres, then discovered that they should have rounded down the actual distance, 49.441.872, instead of mistakenly rounding it up.

In 1996, Boardman set the old one-hour record of 56.375km riding a bike that was made from space-age materials like Kevlar and carbon fibre, with aerodynamically efficient components, helmet and clothing. Since then, the UCI has ruled that all future records must be set on an orthodox bicycle with a steel frame devoid of any streamlining.

The UCI's new regulations did not appeal to everyone. Merckx claimed they were ridiculous, pointing out that pole vaulters are not asked to change their glass-fibre poles for bamboo poles.

There was further controversy when David Duffield, Eurosport's commentator at the World track championships, where Boardman was competing, boycotted the ride and a substitute commentator was brought in. Duffield said: "I feel the UCI are making retrograde steps in respect of the hour record and the new technical regulations for record attempts. Sport should go forward, not backward."

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