Chris Boardman is one of Britain’s most successful cyclist of all time. Chris broke 3 World Hour Records, won an Olympic Gold and was holder of the prestigious yellow jersey in the Tour De France. During his peak Chris was virtually unbeatable in time trials. His number of professional victories has since been beaten by Mark Cavendish, but he still ranks as one of the world’s top time triallists.
Chris Boardman’s Early Career
Chris initially rode for one of the UK’s top amateur clubs – The Manchester Wheelers. On the domestic time trial scene he won over 30 national titles including National 10, 25, 50, and National Hill Climb Championships. Only Scotland’s Graeme Obree was able to challenge Chris in domestic time trials. The media helped to create a sense of rivalry between the two top cyclists of a generation; I think this rivalry was exaggerated and I think it’s fair to say they both respected each other.
Although Chris specialised in time trials he also turned his attention to road racing and competed in track disciplines, In the 1992 Olympics Chris was a gold medallist in the 4,000 metres pursuit. It was this Gold medal performance that launched Chris into the public light
Chris Boardman riding to Olympic Gold in the Barcelona Olympics
In 1993 Chris Boardman broke the World Hour Record. Initially he had been planning to break F. Moser’s mark of 51.1 KM. However Graham Obree managed to beat this record just before Chris’ attempt. Undaunted Chris broke both Moser’s and Obree’s new record setting a mark of 52.2 KM. This led to an unprecedented increase in the World Hour Record. Both Tony Rominger and Miguel Indurain set new records taking the record to 55 KM. Then in Manchester 1996 Chris set a new World Hour adding over 1 KM to the mark set by Tony Rominger. The New World Hour record now stands at 56.375KM – a mark that has not been broken
Chris Boardman’s World Hour Record of 56.375 KM
In this photo Chris is riding a position known as the “Superman ” Position this is because his arms are outstretched. This position is particularly aerodynamic. Although, Chris (like other cyclists, took every aerodynamic advantage) this should not detract from the spectacular athletic performance of this record.
Chris Boardman – Tour De France
Chris devoted the last 5 years of his professional career to try and succeed in the Tour De France. Chris experienced mixed fortunes. 3 times he won the opening prologue time trial, enabling him to wear the coveted yellow jersey. However in 1995 Chris crashed in the opening prologue, breaking his ankle and missing most of the rest of the season. He also crashed badly in the 1998 Tour (after winning the prologue. (1998 the year of the Festina crisis)
The Hour Again
After he set this remarkable record the UCI decided to change the rules about technology that could be used for setting an hour record. Basically they reverted back to 1970s technology when E.Merckx set the record. Rules included no tribars no disc wheels e.t.c. Chris decided to try and break this record as a final swansong to his professional career.Riding at the Manchester Velodrome (at Sea Level) Chris just managed to break E.Merckx record setting a mark of 49.441
In 1998 Chris Boardman was diagnosed with a form of osteoporosis, making it difficult to train for long periods at high intensity. This needed treatment with drugs prohibited by the UCI therefore Chris decided to retire.
Chris Boardman says he always rode without the use of performance enhancing drugs because he didn’t want to damage his health. Some commentators have suggested this is why he struggled relatively in the Tour when it went into the mountains. Of course this effect is impossible to quantify but Chris always maintained a degree of honesty and integrity when many other professionals resorted to the use of drugs (e.g. Festina team 1998).
As a British time triallist, I gain a lot of inspiration from Chris Boardman’s career. Chris began his career racing in the same races we still ride today. Chris won many national titles including 3 hill climb championships. It was a combination of exceptional ability and great determination that enabled Chris to make the jump from a British champion to a world champion and continental pro. It is a jump very few British cyclists have made. Also in a time when drug taking was rife, I always felt great sincerity when Chris Boardman said he didn’t take performance enhancing drugs. It is revealing what one ex pro said. “At the time all pros were taking drugs, oh except Chris Boardman”. (This quote is unofficial and I can’t even remember the cyclist who said it.
Chris Boardman Bikes
After retiring from the sport, Chris used his enthusiasm and knowledge to help advise British Cycling on technical improvements. It became known as the search for Marginal Gains – looking for even the smallest net gains and when adding together it gives athlete a real advantage. British Cycling gained reputation for being real leaders on the track.
Chris Boardman Records
- 25 Miles road time-trial (Junior), 1984
- 25 Miles road time-trial (Senior), 1992
- 25 Miles road time-trial (Senior), 1993, 45:57, min/sec (this record stood until 2009)
- 100 Km road time-trial (Team), 1993, 2:00:07, hr/min/sec (North Wirral Velo team)
- 1 Hour track time-trial, 23 July 1993, Bordeaux, 52.270 Km
- 1 Hour track time-trial, 7 Sept 1996, Manchester, 56.375 Km
- 1 Hour track time-trial, 27 Oct 2000, Manchester, 49.441 Km (“Athlete” rules)
- 1992 Gold medal Olympic Games, Track Pursuit
- 1996 Bronze medal – Individual Time Trial
- 1994 World Time Trial champion
- Tour de France 3 stages prologues
- Chrono des Herbiers
- Duo Normand (with Paul Manning)
- Grand Prix Eddy Merckx
- Josef Voegeli Memorial
- World Track Pursuit Championship
- Critérium International
- Grand Prix des Nations
- LuK Challenge Chrono (with Uwe Peschel)
- The Fastest Man on Two Wheels In pursuit of Chris Boardman at Amazon.co.uk
- Buy Books about Chris Boardman at Amazon.co.uk
- Chris Boardman – Unofficial fan page with many photos of Chris Boardman from his early days
- Chris Boardman on Lance Armstrong at the BBC
Video of Chris Boardman at 1992 Olympics