"Gobsmackingly Brilliant" rides of 2000
My vote for best ride of 2000 must go to Chris Boardman for his courageous world hour record, signing off a career of many highs (and, unfortunately, many lows).
Those who have seen Chris before major events know the mental hell he went through before riding. I saw him at close quarters before various Tour prologues - events, because of his misguided season programme, he just HAD to win. And, great credit to him, he often produced the goods. It must be remembered that many riders in the Tour wanted to win the prologue for a variety of reasons - from out-and-out specialists to sprinters eyeing up the jersey for a few days. Yes, the likes of Cipo et al. were valid rivals for the prologue. So the Tour prologues really were unofficial 'World' prologue titles.
Chris' tussles with the great Graeme Obree were one of the highlights of the decade. Two extremely talented individuals: one precise and meticulous to an annoying degree; the other appealingly amateur and off-the-wall. Both enormously talented.
Back to Chris' final ride. It was a huge gamble. Everybody knew that Chris could not be at peak form because of his widely-publicised testosterone deficit, and, to put it bluntly, his best years were behind him. So to end his career with this ride was once again piling huge pressure on himself.
I was on the back straight when Chris rode in for his last professional challenge. He looked drawn and anxious. I was drawn and anxious. Of course, everybody knows the outcome, but it was a roller-coaster ride. The record was comfortably within his grasp for much of the early part of the race, but then it all started to go wrong. Peter Keen had walked forward, round the track, to indicate how far Chris was up on the record. We all relaxed as Peter walked round the track, down the back straight, past us and round the final curve towards the start line. everything under control - no problems. Suddenly, Peter Keen reversed his walk, heading back round the track, past us and back towards the start line. This didn't look too good. Chris' gains were being cut right back. His head twisted to one side, he looked like he was on the limit, and yet he was still losing hard-gained advantage. And then - oh no! - Peter walked BEHIND the line and went back about 20 metres! Unless Chris pulled something out of the bag, the record was gone and his career would end with a valiant failure, but failure nonetheless.
The crowd yelled itself hoarse, with Mike Smith valiantly trashing
his vocal cords (he couldn't commentate the next day!) Still no good.
Finally, the cavalry, in the shape of Sally Boardman, came down to trackside.
And the triumvirate of Sally, the crowd and Mike Smith helped Chris
to tip the balance. How he raised the tempo in the last three minutes
is beyond me. A true triumph of spirit over flesh.
Two rides I won't forget from 2000:
Chris Boardman, bone disease and all, breaks Merckx' record by 13 meagre feet. The last clean cyclist in the peloton prevails in the last 750m.
Boardman setting the hour record on the UCI's new (old) turf - he's a rider who never did all he was capable of on the road, but in this setting he's brilliant.
Chris Boardman - The Hour. The last three laps. The velodrome must
have been an electrifying place as Chris set the new record. My hat
is thoroughly off to Chris for his achievement. I wanted to be there
but work commitment (I now live in the USA and was in the middle of
relocating during the ride) stopped me. However I am going to be there
for Graeme Obree on the 23rd along with a bunch of mates and I am going
to cheer 'n' beer the flying Scot on!! Roll on Crimbo!