- Category : Cyclist
- Type : MEG
- Profile : 4/6 - Opportunistic / Role Model
- Definition : Split - Small (17,43)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Maya 2
Miguel Indurain Larraya (born 16 July 1964) is a retired Spanish road racing cyclist.
Indurain won five consecutive Tours de France from 1991 to 1995, the fourth, and last, to win five times. He won the Giro d'Italia twice, becoming one of only seven people in history to achieve the Giro-Tour double in the same season. He wore the race leader's yellow jersey in the Tour de France for 60 days. Since the revoking of Lance Armstrong's seven wins, he now holds the record for the most consecutive Tour de France wins.
Indurain's ability and physical size—1.88 m (6 ft 2 in) and 80 kg (176 lbs)—earned him the nickname "Miguelón" or "Big Mig". He was the youngest rider ever to win the Spanish amateur national road championship, when he was 18, at 20 the youngest rider to lead the Vuelta a España, and at 20 he won a stage of the Tour de l'Avenir.
Early life and amateur career
Miguel Indurain was born in the village of Villava (now Villava – Atarrabia), which is now an outlying area of Pamplona. He has three sisters – Isabel, María Dolores and María Asunción – and a brother, Prudencio, who also became a professional cyclist. His first bicycle was a green secondhand Olmo given to him for his 10th birthday. It was stolen when he was 11 and he worked in the fields with his father to pay for a new one.
Indurain tried running, basketball, javelin and football from nine to 14. Then he joined the local CC Villavés and rode his first race in July 1978, an event for unlicensed riders in which he came second. He won his second race and competed every week thereafter. His hero in cycling was Bernard Hinault. At 18 he was the youngest winner of the national amateur road championship.
In 1984 he rode the Olympic Games in Los Angeles and then turned professional on 4 September for Reynolds. He won his first professional race a week later, a time trial in the Tour de l'Avenir. In 1985 he started the Vuelta a España and came second in the prologue, behind Bert Oosterbosch. Oosterbosch lost time on the second stage and Indurain became leader, the youngest rider to do it. He rode the Tour de France later that year, as he would do in each of the next 11 years, but dropped out in the fourth stage.
In 1986, Indurain again rode the Tour, dropping out on the 12th stage. He started the 1987 Vuelta a España with bronchitis from the Tour of Belgium. He rode the 1988 Tour de France as team mate of the winner Pedro Delgado. In 1989, he escaped during the ninth stage of the Tour de France. He won the stage and became leader of the mountains classification, wearing the polkadot jersey the next stage, the only time in his career. In 1990, Indurain rode the Tour de France again for Delgado, but Delgado could not win. Indurain finished 10th place, sacrificing several places by waiting for Delgado.
1991: First Tour win
In 1991, Greg LeMond was favourite for the Tour and while Indurain was a fine time trialist he was considered too large to be a good climber. LeMond led the race until the 12th stage but on the 13th he broke down on the Tourmalet, and lost more than seven minutes to Indurain, who became the leader and stayed leader to the end.
1992: Tour-Giro double
Indurain won the prologue at San Sebastián and wore the yellow jersey from the first day. The 1992 Tour was remarkable for a long breakaway by Claudio Chiappucci on a stage to Sestriere that included six mountains. Indurain finished third, content as the French historian Jean-Paul Ollivier said, "knowing he would take the yellow jersey in the time trials". The tactic brought criticism from Indurain's boyhood hero, Bernard Hinault, who said: "Indurain is the best rider of his generation but he has won this Tour quietly, without great opposition. If the opposition continues to let him get away with it, his reign looks like lasting a long time". Indurain finished the time trial in stage nine, over 65 km, three minutes ahead of the second rider. Near the end he caught Laurent Fignon, who had started six minutes before him.
He also won the Giro d'Italia in 1992. After winning the early time trial, Indurain gained a decisive advantage on stage 9 to Latina-Terminillo. There, on the first summit finish of the race, Indurain finished in the first group, dropping the main contenders, and gaining 30 seconds on Chiappucci. On his way to overall victory by 5mins 12secs over Chiapucci, Indurain also won the final stage 21 time trial.
1993: Second Tour-Giro double
Indurain rode the same way in the 1993 Tour. He won the prologue at Puy-du-Fou, in the Vendée region, and waited until the ninth stage, the 59 km time trial at Lac de Madine, to take control of the race. He won by 2m 11s. From then on, said Ollivier, he rode defensively, watching Tony Rominger, whom he considered a rival against the clock. Ollivier said Indurain's ride wasn't without effort but another historian, Pierre Chany, said it lacked audacity and that Indurain never "did anything unprovoked which would have allowed this exceptional rider to rise above the rest and excite the crowd".
1994: Tour and hour record
Indurain again won the first time trial, the ninth stage from Périgueux to Bergerac, in the south-west. He beat Rominger by two minutes. He did, however, attack in the Pyrenees, accelerating at the foot of the 10 km climb to the ski station at Hautacam. Luc Leblanc, Richard Virenque, Marco Pantani and Armand de Las Cuevas stayed with him but other rivals, including Rominger, were left behind. Indurain lost the stage to Leblanc but kept the yellow jersey to the end.
In May 1994, Indurain tested positive for salbutamol following the Tour de L'Oise in France. Though the β2-adrenergic agonist, found in nasal inhalers, was on the banned substance list of both the IOC and UCI, both organizations permitted sportsmen with asthma to use it. However in France there was an outright ban on its use. The IOC agreed with the UCI that Indurain would not be punished for using a drug banned outright in France because they accepted the salbutamol was contained in a nasal inhaler he had been using legitimately to aid his respiration. In Spain, the incident was interpreted as another case of the French attempting to hinder Indurain's domination of the sport.
1995: Fifth Tour victory
He also won the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré in 1995.
The seventh stage of 1995 Tour linked Charleroi and Liège, both in southern Belgium. It took in the rolling roads of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Indurain attacked with Johan Bruyneel following and the rest were left 50 seconds behind. The following day Indurain won the first time trial, organised on a demanding circuit at Seraing. Jean-Paul Ollivier wrote: "It offered him another chance to assert his authority. Who could challenge him? The hierarchy established itself by itself. Indurain once again set off on a demonstration Tour. This last victory by the rider from Navarra was a model of strength, intelligence and authority, all well controlled. There wasn't an tactical error, never a scare, no moments of weakness".
Indurain aimed for a sixth victory in the 1996 Tour, but suffered from the beginning. He came seventh in the prologue. After bronchitis in a cold and wet first week, he lost time from stage seven. He said that, on the Cormet de Roseland on 6 July, "my legs started to feel odd but, because the speed of the group wasn't very high, I didn't take much notice. I even imagined attacking at the foot of the Arcs climbs." He dropped out of the group and lost three minutes in three kilometres. Race referees penalised him 20 seconds for accepting a bottle of drink in the last kilometre. He said the 20 seconds were nothing compared to the minute he would have lost had he not taken the bottle. He later said he would stop racing. The Dane Bjarne Riis won and his team mate Jan Ullrich finished second. Indurain finished 11th and, in a stage passing through his hometown and ending in Pamplona, he finished 19th, eight minutes behind the stage winner.
He won the individual time trial in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, where professionals competed for the first time.
In September 1996 Indurain rode the Vuelta a España at the insistence of his team. He dropped out unexpectedly on the Mirador del Fito, 30 km (19 mi) from the end of the stage to Covadonga. Relations with his team manager, José-Miguel Echavarri, had been difficult since an aborted attempt on the hour record in Colombia in October 1995. The two no longer speak.
Indurain was a strong time trialist, gaining on rivals and riding defensively in the climbing stages. Indurain won only two Tour stages that were not individual time trials: mountain stages to Cauterets (1989) and Luz Ardiden (1990) in the Pyrenees.
End of career
Indurain took two months to consider his future, particularly the €4.5 million that Manolo Saiz was said to have offered him to transfer to the ONCE team. Negotiations foundered over which races Indurain would ride and whether Saiz would pay more. On 1 January 1997 he told 300 journalists and others in the El Toro hotel in Pamplona that he would not race again. "This is a long and deeply meditated decision, especially as physically I'm in condition to win a sixth Tour", he said. "In early 1996 I decided it was time to go, and I tried to win the Tour for the last time. When I didn't, I thought the Olympics would be the perfect way of bowing out, but what happened after the Tour of Spain made me change my mind. Every year it gets harder and I think I have spent enough time in the sport. My family are waiting." He read a 30-line statement and left without taking questions.
Indurain had a physiology superior to fellow athletes, according to the Ferrara institute. His blood took seven litres of oxygen around his body per minute, compared to 3–4 litres for an ordinary person and 5–6 litres for fellow riders. His cardiac output is 50 litres a minute; a fit amateur cyclist's is about 25 litres. Indurain's lung capacity was 7.8 litres, compared to an average of 6 litres. His resting pulse was as low as 28 BPM, compared to an average 60–72 bpm, which meant his heart would be less strained in the tough mountain stages. His VO2 max was 88 ml/kg/min; in comparison, Lance Armstrong's was 83.8 ml/kg/min and Greg LeMond's was more than 92 ml/kg/min.
He consulted the Italian professor, Francesco Conconi (famous for pioneering EPO use in sport), from 1987 and his weight dropped from 85 to 78 kg under his guidance, "changing himself into an all-round rider", said Philippe Brunel in L'Équipe. He was 10 kg lighter than when he was a junior.
Indurain lives near Pamplona and has a house in Benidorm, on the Mediterranean. He and his wife, Marisa, have three children. He founded the Miguel Indurain Foundation in 1998 to promote sport in the Navarra region from which he comes. He is its president. He worked with the Spanish Olympic Committee, to promote Sevilla's candidature for the 2004 Olympics, and the Union Cycliste Internationale. He hunts wildlife and rides a bike three or four times a week. He attends cyclotourist events such as L'Étape du Tour and the Cape Argus Pick & Pay Cycle Tour in Cape Town, South Africa.
Indurain resisted comparison to Tour champions of the past and said he "never felt superior to anyone". He "never had airs about himself and only reluctantly stepped into the limelight that came with the maillot jaune", Andy Hood wrote in Procycling.
Indurain was a man difficult to know. He was modest and quiet, "governing his troops without ever being demanding." A Spanish journalist, frustrated that he could find nothing interesting about him, asked "I wonder if his wife knows who this man is who sleeps beside her." A team-mate, Jean-François Bernard said: "When he comes down for his meal, you don't even hear him move his chair."
His five straight Tour crowns paralleled Spain's coming of age following decades of repression under the dictatorship of General Franco and his face became a symbol of a new, more assertive Spain stepping confidently on to the European stage.
Philippe Brunel in L'Équipe called him "humble and sublime, taciturn some days. But who was this robotic athlete who, in his streamlined helmet and his Plexiglass visor, dominated the time-trials like no one before him except perhaps Jacques Anquetil?"
The magazine Cycling Weekly wrote: "He seems to do everything very slowly, as though he is trying to conserve energy even here. His eyes blink at half-speed but the gaze from his brown eyes is steady. He looks as relaxed off the bike as he does when he is on it, but you are aware that you are in the presence of a great bike rider."
Indurain said the man who most impressed him was Pope John Paul II, whom he gave a yellow jersey from the Tour de France and a pink jersey from the Giro d'Italia.
Indurain is a member of the Laureus World Sports Academy.