May 1998, Stirling. A brave beginning for the PruTour, formerly the Kellog’s Tour and now the revived Tour of Britain.
I frequently see the PruTour referred to as ill-fated — it ran for only two editions. The names of the Festina and Linda McCartney teams on the start sheet certainly make for ominous reading. The Linda McCartney team went on to fold in 2001 due to financial problems but later that summer, cycling was rocked by the biggest scandal it has ever known when the extent of the doping culture was blown wide open with the Festina affair.
This preview article in The Independent highlights Chris Boardman’s concerns over a lack of form ahead of the race. He needn’t have worried- he won the prologue and the overall. The piece also gives a useful breakdown of the teams and riders involved.
George Hincapie was second in the prologue, 1.7 seconds behind. “The last hill was sheer hell. It was difficult to judge your pace and leave something in reserve for the last 200 metres.” Having ridden this hill I know just what he is talking about — the gradient doesn’t seem hard, but rounding the corner to the final cobbled section up to the esplanade, it really begins to bite.
Richard Moore, now better known for his book In Search of Robert Millar, rode the race as part of a Scottish Team with Brian Smith. Without going into detailed quotes, they didn’t fare well. May 1998 was not a time to look forward for Scottish Cycling. Luckily we are booming again with a thriving amateur scene, representation (of sorts) on the ProTour and a strong new challenge at Pro Continental level with Endura Racing.
Robert, whose picture I blogged recently gave me his memories of the day: “It was a brilliant day for cycling and I was very impressed at the turnout of spectators. It was very free and easy and you could photograph the riders easily. Unfortunately I missed Chris Boardman who was
powering up over the cobbles, sitting down, steady as a rock while my camera was switched off. I then went down to the bottom of King Street to see the Gan team’s bikes and they all came out of the campervan as I was studying them. Stuart O’Grady came over and said hello. I think they were just making sure I was going to pinch one.”