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Chris Boardman – Triumphs and Turbulence

Chris Boardman’s autobiography – Triumphs and Turbulence – is a good read. It’s well-written, informative, interesting and gives a good overview of his (almost) great career. He comes across as thoughtful, humble (but not too humble), guilty about the time he spent away from his wife and children and respectful of others, including Steve Peters, Dave Brailsford, Graeme Obree and Jens Voigt, the last of whom he almost hero worships. And yet, and yet… If you sense a but, it’s because there is one. In interviews, Boardman comes across as passionate, articulate, often angry, a true cycling evangelist, and as we saw at the Olympics, not afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve. There is none of that in his book which in many ways is on a par with other celebrity autobiographies – Philip Schofield, Gloria Hunniford, Richard Madeley, et al. If there was anything controversial, opinionated or borderline offensive, it has been ruthlessly excised by Gary Imlach. And there is one glaring and disturbing omission. Boardman joined the pro peloton in the midst of the drug scandals which almost destroyed our sport. His well known crash in the prologue to the 1998 Tour came just before the whole Festina affair almost brought the sport to a halt. Boardman mentions it purely in passing. If he has a view about drugs in cycling, if he suspects anyone of doping, if he knew anyone who doped – I don’t know what it is and I didn’t learn it from this book. Perhaps he feels he has nothing to add, maybe he thinks all the stories are known; but they aren’t and his thoughts would be interesting to know. Apart from a few prologue wins Boardman did not achieve very much at the Tour and there are those who have suggested this was due to his refusal to dope. I don’t know and he’s not saying. David Millar is a reformed doper who is passionate about his sport; his autobiography positively sparkles next to Boardman’s rather pedestrian effort. I think it was William Blake who said that the best lack all conviction while the worst are filled with a passionate intensity. Boardman manages to be one in his interviews and the other in his book. A shame. There is a good book to be written about Boardman who did more than anyone to pave the way for the success of British cycling in the last dozen or so years: Triumphs and Turbulence is not that book.

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