By Steve Thomas
Chris Boardman stands high as Britain's most accomplished Tour de France competitor. Cyclingnews spoke with the retired cyclist as he prepares for the London Grand Depart, and three weeks in the commentary box:
When it comes to time trials, Britain's Chris Boardman didn't just master the rule book: he wrote it. What started with a 10-mile national Road Time Trial Council title as a schoolboy in 1984, was refined in to a World Time Trial Champion jersey a decade later, with a wad of titles and records in between. While some criticized the rider's lack of climbing ability, the dual Olympic medallist still has a that would make most envious.
In 1994, his world champion year, Boardman shot to instant fame with the fastest ITT on record before ironically losing the yellow jersey after a disastrous Team Time Trial. With three Tour victories listed on an extensive palmarès, the commentator is enthused by the prospect of a fellow British rider taking out Saturday's Prologue when the event makes its London debut.
"It's great, and it really shows that the development [of British riders] is working," said Boardman. "This is only the tip of the iceberg; there are lots of guys standing right behind these riders."
Of course, there are two British riders in particular that the local media is hyping for a Saturday stage victory: Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) and David Millar (Saunier Duval). The two British heavyweights will likely be keen to impress on home soil, but Boardman believes conditioning will play the decisive role in the duo's hopes.
"I would say [Wiggins] has a one in five chance," Boardman said. "One problem is that we know he has been on top form for a long time, which is worrying as you can't stay there forever. The other thing is that the pressure will really be on him, and he's already realising it.
"At the Olympics he was one of a bunch of guys who could win, so it wasn't too much pressure," added Boardman, who claimed his own 4000m individual pursuit Olympic gold medal in '92. "Now it's his hometown and he is expected to win, and the Tour is always somewhat overwhelming. If he can keep his mind on himself and how he races, as opposed to the occasion, then he has a good chance."
Boardman rates Millar at an even remoter chance of taking the event-opening victory from the yellow jersey hungry peloton. Despite his wider odds, Boardman believes Millar could benefit tomorrow if he's finally reached his peak form of the season. "I think Dave has not had that form yet, which means he could be getting there," he cautioned. "He also has the experience of having done it before. I would say he has a one in seven chance of winning."
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