News for December 12, 1996

Whither Indurain? -- the latest

With 21 days of his contract with Banesto left to run, Miguel Indurain has still not indicated whether he will continue racing next season and if so whether he will renew his contract with Banesto or join a new team.

Those approaching Indurain have included ONCE and Kelme and now Italian squadra Team Polti has joined the quest for the five-time Tour de France winner.

The offer from Polti came by fax to Indurain's house last Thursday (December 5). In Miguel's absence, his wife Marisa confirmed the arrival of this offer and she also spoke briefly to Polti team manager Gianluigi Stanga.

"There would be no problem about the money," Stanga told L'Equipe. "Polti, which has branches in Brazil, France and Germany, is also establishing a presence in Spain. With profits? (or maybe turnover? but that sounds too small) of 200 million French francs [US$38 million] this year we could perfectly readily make a suitable offer to a rider of Indurain's rank. That's even though I have a strong feeling that Indurain is not going to be seduced by money."

Polti was sixth-ranked in the UCI classifications on November 30 but is losing Davide Rebellin, Mauro Gianetti and Georg Totschnig at the end of the season. It retain Luc Leblanc and has recruited Axel Merckx. Stanga says Indurain would be given a free hand to choose his programme -- if he wished, riding only the Tour de France. Stanga suggests riding for Polti would relieve Indurain from the pressure to ride the Vuelta that might come from any Spanish team he might join. In addition, it would avoid accusations of treason being hurled at Indurain, as might be the case were he to join ONCE.

Polti has also indicated that Prudencio Indurain would be welcome in the team although he has already resigned with Banesto.

Stanga is realistic: "In my opinion the favourites [for Indurain's allegiance] are still ONCE," he said, "but I want Miguel to know that we are very interested." Franco Polti, the boss of the Polti company is also said to be very keen.

In the view of L'Equipe, from which this information is drawn, things are still very much up in the air but some points can be made. It's the paper's view that the Kelme offer was nothing but a publicity coup of no consequence. Secondly, it should be borne in mind that ONCE has not yet re-signed seven of its riders, and by no means undistinguished ones: Melchior Mauri, Herminio Diaz Zaballa, Roberto Sierra, Leanizbarrutia, Extebarria, Diaz de Otazu and Kiko Garcia. "Is this in expectation of the arrival of the Indurain brothers?" L'Equipe speculates archly. "It will be necessary to be patient for a bit longer to know."