'Superman' Boardman on top of the world

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The Independent Online

Chris Boardman went into unknown territory with a charge last night when he broke the world record for the second time in two days for the 4000 metres pursuit at the World Track Championships here. In less than 36 hours he had demolished the old mark by eight seconds.

The 28-year-old from Hoylake clocked 4min 11.114sec to win the world title and take the pursuit into realms undreamed of until he adopted the "Superman" position that has made him aerodynamically sleeker. When the world's top cyclists arrived at the Manchester Velodrome on Wednesday the record stood at 43:19.699: two days later Boardman had gone inside that four times speaking volumes for his powers of recovery.

If an athlete broke a running record he would require several days rest to go anywhere near the time again. Boardman simply piled fast times on top of each other recording the four best in history.

His opponent in the final last night was Andrea Collinelli and that was incentive enough for Boardman who had watched the Italian take his Olympic pursuit title at Atlanta. The Briton was too tired after his efforts in the Tour de France to race in the pursuit, though he won a bronze medal in the time trial.

A month's rest and proper preparation provided a chance to set the record straight about the pursuit and Boardman grabbed it. The final was billed as a battle of the last two Olympic champions; in the end it proved to be a rout.

In all his races at the National Centre Boardman has begun slowly, the high gear on his specially adapted pounds 15,000 bike making him take the first 500 metres to crank up the wheels into full flow.

After a lap he was half a second behind, at one point he was 1.6sec adrift but although Collinelli had adopted the stretched out "Superman" position, too, it was the Briton who was flying. By the half-way stage Boardman was ahead and he was bearing down on the back wheel of an opponent who had started on the other side of the track.

The pace was ferocious, Collinelli well inside the world record by the 1,000 metre mark. Boardman, however, saved his best for the latter stages and at 3,000 metres he was more than a second inside the mark he had set the day before. Collinelli slowed down, as he realised he was chasing the uncatchable, and could only watch as his opponent lopped another two seconds off the record.

The semi-final, earlier in the evening had been a forewarning. Boardman's opponent, the 17-year-old Russian Alexei Markov was not a problem. It was how much energy would be expended trying to get to the final. In the even the Briton was coasting long before the end.

By the last lap Boardman was sitting in Markov's slipstream, his hands and arms recoiled from the laid-out position he assumes at his fastest. He looked like a man out on a Sunday ride until you saw his time, 4:15.006, then the third fastest in history.

It would prove to be just a stepping stone in the finest sequence of times ever. And this could be just a prelude. Next Friday, at the same venue, Boardman goes for the world hour record. Few would bet against him getting it.