Pru-Tour (of Britain)
1. Chris Boardman (Gan) 4km in 6-08
Stage 1 Edinburgh-Newcastle, 128 miles
Later that night, his team-mate Stuart O' Grady was encouraging him to be more aggressive and to start racing. Clearly O' Grady has a future as a motivator because when Boardman won the stage in the red jersey of race leadership, it came as a huge surprise.
In fact, there was a delayed reaction from the big crowd in Newcastle's Grey Street. They, like the press, were slow to recognise Boardman in an unfamiliar pose and unfamiliar jersey and their massive cheer started a heartbeat too late, like the voice delay on a long-distance phone line. But, nevertheless, there he was in front of them - Boardman, race leader, had won a road stage and taken the crucial 10-second time bonus that goes with it.
The race manual's profile maps exaggerate the gradient of the climbs to a frightening extent - there are no climbs in Britain as vertical as those illustrated - while, more cruelly, they completely fail to give any impression of the difficulty of the rolling roads in Northumberland to the north of Newcastle.
After skirmishes involving Eros Poli (Gan), Matt Postle (PDM Sport), Brian Smith (Clarke Contracts) and David McKenzie (Australia) had been snuffed out after the Carter Bar climb (58 miles), relative peace settled on the race till after the next two climbs - Winters Gibbet at 73 miles and Ewesley Fell at 83 miles. What followed on the lumpy roads around the Kielder Forest heading for Ponteland shaped the day's racing.
"With about 90 miles done, the European guys started to put the hammer down and then you really noticed it," explained Chris Newton. "Over the top of the climbs in the crosswinds it was getting lined-out, and when the Festina and GAN guys saw their men were right at the front, they started to leave gaps and let the front guys go clear. I spotted that and jumped up the road and found John [Tanner] already there."
The composition of the 19-man front group was clearly favourable to the men who were supposed to race - Boardman, Backstedt, O'Grady, Laurent Lefevere, Neil Stephens, Andre Korff (Festina), Hincapie, Ekimov, Baranowski, Tyler Hamilton (US Postal) Stephane Berges and Carlos Da Cruz (Big Mat) were there, as were several others who didn't manage to hang on to the express train powered by GAN's Backstedt.
On the final three laps of the unlovely five-mile finishing circuit, incorporating the car park of the Telewest Arena, the stage was clearly going to be decided by these riders. The circuit may have been a bit grim round the back, but the finishing straight - the draggy climb of Grey Street - was full of noise, sunshine and spectators, who probably had more faith in Boardman than any of the British journalists waiting on the line.
As the penultimate lap changed into the last lap, Ekimov was dropped, along with Hamilton and the unfortunate Tanner, who punctured - another stroke of the maliciously bad luck which has plagued his season. To make matters worse, the Mavic neutral service car drove past him, condemning him to ride with the `dead meat'.
With Hincapie and the lead group now down to seven riders, it was clear there were going to be all manner of attacks, and most of them came from Festina, even if Newton also had a go. However, as the three-kilometre board showed and Lefevere was on the point of being caught, Boardman launched himself over the top of the young Frenchman, holding off the fast finishing Korff on the line.
1. Chris Boardman (GB) Gan 128miles in 5-06-26
Stage 2: Gateshead-York, 105.5 miles
The GAN whitewash continued when Stuart O' Grady made it three stage wins out of three for the French team with a last-gasp sprint victory at York. Thanks to time bonuses, O' Grady's win enabled him to take the race leadership from Boardman, who said "I sacrificed everything for Stuart today. It was a sad decision to make, but someone had to sacrifice himself'.
O' Grady led in an eight-man group which had formed over the quartet of climbs in the North York moors, including the one-in-three Rosedale Chimney, but left his effort late in the headwind finish straight, where Jon Clay led out and veered to his left as O' Grady attempted to come through. "I wasn't very pleased, because stuff like that can ruin your season."
Clay's second place came at the end of a good day for Brite, who had one of the main animators of the stage in Chris Walker, while Chris Newton finished 12th and moved up to sixth overall.
1. Stuart O'Grady (Australia) GAN 105.5 miles in 45-14
1. Stuart O'Grady (Australia) GAN 27-17-53