- 14 Aug 08, 08:43 AM
On a July night in 1992, 12-year-old Bradley Wiggins sat in front of a television with his cycling-mad father Gary and watched Chris Boardman storm to Olympic gold in the individual pursuit.
At that moment he decided, in his own words, "to do something with my life".
Sixteen years down the line, here in Beijing, Wiggins goes for his second Olympic gold in the same event - with Boardman alongside him as mentor and technical advisor.
To the untrained eye, both Boardman and Wiggins made their triumphs look easy.
Boardman actually caught his German opponent Jens Lehmann in that '92 final, while Wiggins took gold in Athens by over four seconds.
The reality, as Boardman told me, is a whole heap more complicated - and brutal.
"Once the race kicks off, for about a minute it's free," he explains.
"You'll have a pre-determined schedule that's been practised and practised to get the most out of yourself over that distance, and you'll be getting feedback from the coaches by the track.
"At that stage, there is no pain - and that makes it very dangerous. You can try too hard and overcook it, and pay a huge price later on.
"When it does start to bite after a minute, there's an equation that goes through your head: 'how hard am I trying?'; 'how far is there to go?'; and 'can I keep this up?'.
"The answer you want to the last part is 'maybe'.
"If the answer is 'yes', you're not going fast enough. If the answer is 'no', it's too late - you've already blown too much."
Wiggins timed his effort to perfection in Manchester earlier this year to make it two pursuit world titles on the bounce.
According to Boardman, if he's in that shape again in the Laoshan Velodrome, the second part of the race can take on an unreal quality.
"When an athlete has got really good peak form, the effort doesn't really register as pain. You're releasing huge amounts of natural painkillers - endorphins and adrenaline.
"You just realise that your legs won't go round as quickly as you want them to.
"You reach a physical limit. You can't do any more - that's how it feels.
"When you really suffer, is when it's not working out, when it's not going for you, because those hormones are diminished, and you start to feel everything.
"The pain just mounts and mounts as you get closer to the line."
Wiggins will be watched by 6,000 fans inside the velodrome, with millions more watching on television, just as he did in 1992.
This time, however, he's unlikely to be aware of anything more than just his body and his bike.
"The crowd is something you remember afterwards," says Boardman. "The only things that are getting through your filters are the bits that are important.
"The event is relatively short - around four and a half minutes - so there's an intense focus on getting it all out before you hit the line.
"With a lap and a half to go, it's effectively a sprint. You go as hard as you can, and when you cross the line you see what's happened."
Qualifying for Wiggins starts on Friday morning just before 10am UK time, with the final 26 hours later.
Boardman believes that the hardest part of the entire event for Wiggins is right now - the waiting.
"Your mind plays the 'what if?' game - what if this happens, what if that happens - and that's a very intense time.
"That's when you need a third party to come in and talk logic to you - or to sit and ask you the questions so you talk logic to yourself.
"When I won gold in 1992. I sat there an hour before the final with the psychologist I was working with, and I told him that I felt absolutely terrible.
"I would have done anything to get out of it at that moment.
"He said to me, 'You've got to feel like that.' It was a bit of a shock, that he wasn't saying 'don't feel like that'.
"He told me to accept it, because it had to feel like that - the race was so important to me.
"It's like the elephant in the room. Don't pretend it's not there.
"It's got nothing to do with your performance. Could I have done more training? Irrelevant. You are who you are today. The only thing you can be is as good as you can be.
"If you keep repeating that, almost as a mantra, it puts you in control. You can only affect you.
"Learning to deal with that is the biggest skill a bike rider can have."
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