Chris Boardman has spent all season thinking about the prologue of the Tour de France and three days surveying the course, but it wasn’t until Saturday morning that he finally decided how to ride it.
“Do you go all out from the start or do you save just a little something then for that hill?” the prologue specialist asked Friday, still undecided. The hill, which he described as “40 seconds of effort,” was situated just a kilometer (five-eighths of a mile) along the 7.3-kilometer (4.5-mile) course.
After a final reconnoiter Saturday morning, Boardman returned to tell friends that he had solved the problem. “He said that everything fell into place,” one of those friends reported.
Indeed it did. Riding early Saturday evening in sunny and warm weather, Boardman finished first in the prologue to the 84th edition of the world’s greatest bicycle race and donned its first yellow jersey to signify his leadership.
Boardman, a Briton who rides for the Gan team in France, was timed in 8 minutes 20 seconds over the streets of Rouen and two of its bridges across the Seine River.
He finished two seconds ahead of Jan Ullrich, a German with Telekom, who started hours earlier in the individual race against the clock and whose 8:22 stood as the mark to beat for the 197 other riders in the Tour.
Third, in 8:25, was Evgeni Berzin, a Russian with Batik. Tony Rominger, a Swiss with Cofidis, was fourth and Alex Zuelle was fifth, both in 8:25 also. The differences among them were reckoned in hundredths of a second. Peter Meinert-Nielsen, a Dane with the U.S. Postal Service team, was a surprising sixth, seven seconds behind Boardman.
“It’s been a very nervous day for me,” Boardman said, “because everyone made me the favorite.”
That status was understandable since Boardman, 28, makes a speciality of winning time trials, both long and short. He had already won four of them this season and more than 30 in his career.
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