Before his 18th Tour day began, Boardman, gaunt from the longest race of his 28 years, was talking determinedly about Olympic gold on 3 August. "There is a reasonable chance I can win the time trial," he said. However, his No 1 priority for the season, even above the Olympics, was to complete the Tour's 3,900 kilometres, and Wednesday's vicious stage into Spain almost produced his knock-out.
"If I had not ridden the Tour before it was quite feasible that I would have been going home now," Boardman said before the Pamplona start of the 154km back into France yesterday.
"It was the worst day I have had in my life. In my current physical condition I cannot believe I actually came through it, and I take great pride now that I did.
"I don't know how I did it, but I don't want another day like that in my life. I was falling back from the main field in the first three kilometres, and there was still 264 more to go.
"I thought it cannot go on like this for eight hours, but you cannot be beaten by the Tour. It becomes a personal thing."
On Sunday his wife, Sally-Anne, and their four children will be in the Champs Elysees, with Boardman's parents, Keith and Margaret. Chris now feels sure that he too will be there. Yesterday he finished tucked in a group of 114 which included the big names, who took a hard-earned day off.
After settling the Tour in the Pyrenees, Bjarne Riis was content to let 14 lesser mortals scrap for the victory and the Dutchman Bart Voskamps took the opportunity.
He outsprinted Christian Henn, one of Riis's German team-mates, after they had given their co-leaders the slip in the final eight kilometres on the coastal road where holiday-makers left the beaches to watch the race flash past.
Jean-Marie Leblanc, the Tour director, braced for Basque separatists to carry out their threats, faced instead a protest by the 27 motorcyclists who carry cameramen and radio reporters during the race.
A French photographer's motor cycle was allegedly forced off a mountain road by the car driven by the manager of the Kelme team on Wednesday. Neither was seriously hurt, but the car did not stop. The motor cyclists were demanding that the manager, Alvaro Pino, should be excluded from the race for a day, as is the procedure with others who flout safety rules.
As a protest the motorcyclists rode in convoy throughout yesterday's stage, working a rota to take photographs rather than the usual free-for- all.
STAGE 18 (Pamplona to Hendaye, 96 miles): 1 B Voskamp (Neth) TVM 4hr 11min 2sec; 2 C Henn (Ger) Deutsche Telekom +2sec; 3 A Elli (It) MG Technogym 27; 4 B Thibout (Fr) Motorola same time; 5 B Boscardin (It) Festina 32; 6 A Ferrigato (It) Roslotto 1:26; 7 P Herve (Fr) Festina; 8 E Breukink (Neth) Rabobank; 9 V Fois (It) Panaria; 10 D Perona (It) Gewiss; 11 C Salvato (It) Refin; 12 M Bartoli (It) MG Technogym; 13 M Alonso (Sp) Banesto all same time; 14 P Jonker (Aus) ONCE 1:32; 15 E Zabel (Ger) Deutsche Telekom 16:56; 16 D Abdoujaparov (Uzb) Refin; 17 F Baldato (It) MG Technogym; 18 F Moncassin (Fr) GAN; 19 A Baronti (Italy) Panaria; 20 L Brochard (Fr) Festina all same time. Selected: 92 C Boardman (GB) GAN same time.
Overall standings: 1 B Riis (Den) Deutsche Telekom 85hr 43min 32sec; 2 J Ullrich (Ger) Deutsche Telekom +3:59; 3 R Virenque (Fr) Festina +4:25; 4 L Dufaux (Swit) Festina +5:52; 5 P Luttenberger (Aut) Carrera +6:19; 6 F Escartin (Sp) Kelme +7:23; 7 P Ugrumov (Lat) Roslotto +7:48; 8 L Leblanc (Fr) Polti +8:01; 9 A Olano (Sp) Mapei +11:12; 10 T Rominger (Swit) Mapei +11:24; 11 M Indurain (Sp) Banesto +15:36; 12 Jonker 17:39; 13 B Hamburger (Den) TVM +19:18; 14 L Piepoli (It) Refin +19:31; 15 Elli +20:46; 16 M F Gines (Sp) Mapei +21:37; 17 U Bolts (Ger) Deutsche Telekom +23:05; 18 Bartoli +30:37; 19 Brochard +31:32; 20 Y Berzin (Rus) Gewiss +37:22. Selected: 43 Boardman at 1:27:33.
King of the Mountains: 1 R Virenque (Fr) Festina 383pts; 2 B Riis (Den) Deutsche Telekom 274; 3 L Dufaux (Swit) Festina 176; 4 L Brochard (Fr) Festina 168; 5 L Leblanc (Fr) Polti 158.Reuse content