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Friday, 27 October, 2000, 18:04 GMT 19:04 UK
Boardman breaks Merckx record
Chris Boardman has succeeded in his attempt to break cycling's hour world record after saving what he called the "hardest three laps" of his career until last.
In a thrilling finish, Boardman had to dredge up every last inch of strength to get back on schedule for the mark.
The Merseyside cyclist, forced to retire after struggling for two years with a strain of osteoporosis, was well within the average speed needed for the first half-hour but then he started inching backwards.
With five minutes to go, he had dropped 0.1km/h behind on average.
But then he made a fantastic last effort and inched back on schedule by a few fractions each lap.
He beat the record by a tiny fraction, riding 49.444km, just beating Belgian great Eddy Merckx's mark, which was 49.431km/h.
He had to be helped from his bike at the finish after nearly collapsing, but recovered sufficiently to embrace his wife Sally-Anne and manager Roger Legeay.
"Up to the half-hour point I was feeling pretty good then the lap times started to drop off, I was on the limit," said Boardman.
"I could not do anything about it but didn't panic and decided to save everything for an all-out sprint in the last three laps.
"They were the hardest laps of my life. I had no idea if I'd beaten the distance and I didn't care. I just wanted it to end."
He added: "I've never had so much pain after a race. I can only put it down to having to ride in a crouched position on the old-style handlebars.
"If I had known how hard it would be, I would never have attempted it. I now know how much pain Merckx felt. I was never convinced I wouldn't make it but I was never sure I would make it either.
"The last 15 minutes were terrible and I was trying to get a second wind. I found it very difficult to hold my position."
After three world titles, two world records and an Olympic gold medal, Boardman confirmed his retirement.
"That was definitely my last race ever. It was a risky way to say goodbye. It might have fizzled out. I'm just glad every one walked away happy."
Boardman, one of the world's best pursuit and time-trial riders in the last decade, already held the absolute record of 56.375km covered in an hour, set at the 1996 World Championships at the same venue, the Manchester Velodrome.
But that mark was taken away because cycling's governing body, the UCI, believed that equipment advances had given riders too much help.
And Boardman's bid was made even more difficult because the UCI added a new mark for the British rider to beat on the day of his attempt.
The UCI insisted the benchmark was 49.431 kilometres, the 1972 figure set on a traditional bike by Belgian Eddy Merckx. The governing body has been worried that the machinery was distracting from the human effort involved.
After the record bid, Boardman said that future attempts to break the record should be done in similar conditions.
"You need to attack the record at sea level and not at altitude. If that be the case, I think it will be a difficult record to beat."
Boardman had been convinced he only had to complete the ride with a respectable figure to establish a new record, believing the UCI had wiped the slate clean after outlawing records set with high-tech bikes.
He had nevertheless set himself a target of 49.5 kilometres on a traditional bike.
"If I do 40 kilometres it is still a new record," he had said on Thursday. "However honour says I cannot do that."
So he was angered when he heard the UCI had moved the goal posts.
"Chris is very upset," said his business manager Peter Woodworth on Friday, before the record attempt. "He heard about it as he left the hotel, some two and a half hours before his ride.
"The UCI have probably realised how complicated the matter is, and are trying to disown it. They have even questioned his clothing."
On Friday, UCI president Hein Verbruggen phoned Boardman's team manager, Roger Legeay, to clarify the situation.
"It is not that he must attack Merckx's record," said Legeay. "The UCI are using those figures as the standard to beat. If Chris does not surpass them there is no record."
Merckx's record was set on a traditional bike, but high-tech machinery have since taken the hour record to new heights.
Four years ago, Boardman covered more than 56 kilometres.
However, after new regulations outlawing hi-tech bikes were introduced on October 1 this year, all record attempts must be made on a traditional bike.
Boardman's 1996 performance has accordingly been downgraded from a world record to world's best performance.
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