Tour wins: 1991-95
Until the 1990’s nobody quite dominated the Tour de France like “Big Mig” did.
Miguel Indurain’s large physical presence might have suggested that he would struggle as an all-rounder, but he became the first ever man to win five yellow jerseys on the trot from 1991 to ’95 riding for the Banesto team.
An almost superhuman presence in cycling, the Spaniard was declared unbeatable by many of his rivals – with some nicknaming him the “Extra Terrestrial”.
Indurain had an astonishing resting heart rate of 29 beats-per-minute and lungs that could gather eight litres of oxygen – and as a result nobody could even come close to him, not even the great Greg LeMond who lost out to the Spaniard in ’91.
Such was his dominance in the early 90’s that fans began to grow weary of his supremacy. His calm and reserved manner along with a cautious approach didn’t endear him to fans either.
Perhaps his charisma didn’t match up with some of the enigmatic winners that had come before him but he commanded the utmost respect from his competitors and no one could doubt his obvious talent.
Indurain insisted his unmoved approach contributed to his success, “My strength was that I am more balanced and calmer than most other riders.”
“I inherited that calm from my father, who was a farmer,” said Indurain of his mannerisms, “You sow, you wait for good or bad weather, you harvest, but working is something you always need to do.”
And work he did, tirelessly outperforming the great Greg LeMond to the yellow jersey in 1991 before delivering perhaps his finest moment in 1992 - a time trial in Luxembourg that many regard as the best in cycling history.
Indurain’s main strength was his time-trialling and he powered home a whole three minutes quicker than anyone else in Luxembourg.
He become the first rider to do back-to-back Tour de France and Giro d’Italia doubles in ’92 and ’93 – easing to victory in all four competitions.
Many considered his 6.2”, 80kg frame would be too large in the mountains – but he consistently hauled himself into winning positions, notably in the Pyrenees in ’94.
His astonishing physical ability allowed him to attack both flats and mountains with resounding success – leaving other riders perplexed at just how far away from his talent they were.
Indurain’s exceptional time-trialling skills saw him break Graeme Obree's hour record in 1994 and earn a time-trial Olympic gold medal at the ’96 Atlanta games.
But his career defining moment came in ’95 when he won his fifth straight maillot jaune – a feat never achieved before. He truly was the dominant force in world cycling.
Indurain went for his sixth straight title in ’96 but struggled from the start and finished well off the pace in 11th.
That was to be his last Tour – Big Mig retired the following year saying “Every year it gets harder and I think I have spent enough time in the sport. My family are waiting.”
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