Miguel Indurain Facts
Personal Details Born: July 16 1964 in Villava, Navarre, Spain Height: 1.88m Weight: 80kg Married: Marisa, one child (Miguel) Lives: Olaz, near Pamplona Became professional: 1984 Teams: Reynolds (1984-89), Banesto (1989-96) Major wins One day races 1996 Olympic time-trial (Atlanta) 1995 World time-trial championship (Colombia) 1992 Spanish championship 1990 San Sebastian Classic Stage races Tour de France: 1991-1995 (including 12 stages) Tour of Italy: 1992, 93 (4 stages) Paris-Nice: 1989, 90 Criterium du Dauphine: 1995, 96 GP Midi Libre: 1995 Criterium International: 1989 Tour of Catalonia: 1988, 91, 92 Tour of Asturias: 1996 Bicicleta Vasca: 1996 Tour of the European Community: 1986 Miscellaneous: World Hour record holder from September 2 1994 to October 22 1994 (53.040 km). Number one ranked cyclist 1992, 1993 Olympic time-trial at 1996 Atlanta Games.
Riders praise Indurain, papers dwell on shortfallsEurope's top cyclists paid handsome tribute to retiring Spanish Tour de France ace Miguel Indurain on Friday but some of the continent's newspapers were less generous in their praise.
``When he announced (his retirement) I felt terrible,'' Italian rider Marco Pantani said. ``Indurain is the biggest champion I have seen race.''
Pantani's compatriot Gianni Bugno described Indurain as the ``best time-trialer of all time.''
``The Tour will never be the same and neither will be the world hour race,'' he said.
Indurain, 32, announced on Thursday he would retire from professional cycling and would not bid for a record sixth Tour de France victory.
He won the Tour each year from 1991 to 1995, becoming one of only four men to have won the world's greatest cycle race five times and the only rider in history to have won it five times in a row.
``He was often criticised for lacking panache because he built his tour victories on the time-trials, but his results prove he was right,'' said Frenchman Bernard Hinault, another of the five-time winners. ``He will leave the image of a rider who knew himself very well and knew perfectly how to manage his physical potential.''
Denmark's Bjarne Riis, who ended Indurain's dream of a sixth Tour de France in 1996, said: ``I'm sorry he's stopping but I think he's made the best decision. I would have loved to beat him a second time on the Tour. It's hard for me to say whether he was capable of a sixth victory but I think it's better to quit rather than risk another defeat.''
But while Indurain's rivals on the road paid homage to the man known affectionally as ``Big Mig,'' newspapers in Belgium, home of Tour legend and five-times winner Eddy Merckx, were swift to point out his shortfalls.
``Indurain will enter history as someone who never took risks,'' predicted daily Het Nieuwsblad in an editorial.
``There was not much enthusiam about him in the international cycling world, because he was too much focused on the Tour. The Tour may be the most important cycling event (but) one cannot avoid the other major races if one wants to appeal to the popular image.''
``He cannot be compared to Merckx or Hinault, who were more complete cyclists,'' said La Derniere Heure newspaper. ``With a few exceptions, Indurain hardly won any other major races.''
Merckx himself prefered to look forward to life after Indurain.
``Cycling is losing a big man, that is for sure, but the 1996 Tour has shown that many youngsters, such as (German Jan) Ullrich, are ready to follow his path.''
Not suprisingly, Spain's newspapers lauded the man widely regarded as their greatest ever sportsman.
Sports paper Marca dedicated nearly half its 48 pages to a review of his career and claimed his achievements put him on a par with Brazilian soccer legend Pele and 1930s U.S. sprinter Jesse Owens.
His home village of Villava in the foothills of the Pyrenees was said to be in mourning.
But perhaps the finest eulogy to the burly, quietly-spoken Spaniard came from Jean-Marie Leblanc, director of the Tour de France Indurain made his own in the 1990s.
``I never saw him over-stretched or forced onto the defensive,'' Leblanc said. ``He had an absolute mastery of men, terrain and events that greatly impressed me. I will keep the memory of an extremely amenable and kind man.''
Indurain no match for MercxClaude Jacquat a senior official of cycling's world governing body the UCI said on Thursday he was sorry that five-time Tour de Franc winner Miguel Indurain of Spain was retiring but added that he could not be compared to the Belgian Eddy Mercx.
"It is sad because both World cycling and Spanish cycling will miss him," Jacquat, head of the UCI's tecnical commission, said.
"However, I cannot place him on the same level as his fellow five-time winner Mercx as Eddy wanted to win every race in the season whereas Miguel only wanted the Tour de France," Jacquat added.
Jacquat said that he felt Indurain had made an error of judgement in giving in to his Banesto team's orders and cycling in the 1996 Tour of Spain.
"He was wrong to cycle in the Tour of Spain and gave the impression of a tormented soul," Jacquat commented.
The 32-year-old's failure to make it a unique six Tour wins in a row last year sparked off rumours of a possible retirement and when he failed to find a team willing to pay him eight million dollars for the 1997 season his fate was sealed.
"It was a difficult decision to take. I am now going to concentrate on other things," said Indurain.
"I feel I have concentrated enough of my time on professional cycling and now I want to enjoy the sport as an amateur," he added.
Indurain said it had taken him three months to make a final decision about his future.
"It was made even more difficult by the fact that I feel in perfect physical shape and am convinced that I could win a sixth Tour de France," said the cyclist, whose contract with Banesto ended on December 31.
Both Banesto and ONCE were keen to sign the Spaniard for this season but neither were prepared to match his multi-million dollar demand.
Indurain's biggest success last season was to take the gold in the Olympic time-trial but he made no secret that it did not compare to winning the Tour de France.
"For any professional cyclist winning the Tour is the pinnacle of their career, whereas winning the Olympic title is purely symbolic," he said.
Immediately after his retirement announcement, Jean-Marie Leblanc, director of the Tour de France, described Indurain as one of the greatest champions in the Tour's history.
"He was a perfect gentleman. Always approachable, always willing to sign autographs. He was a great ambassador for the sport," said Leblanc.
Frenchman Bernard Hinault, a fellow five-time winner, added his own tribute to the Spaniard.
"He won his first Tour de France relatively late at the age of 27, but he just got stronger and stronger. He fixed his tactics well ahead of the race and stuck to them. For him the final standings were how he was to be judged not just one glorious stage win which could have sacrificed his whole race," Hinault, the last Frenchman to win the Tour in 1985, said.
Banesto sports director Jose Miguel Echavarri was also quick to praise Indurain.
"Never has Spain had such a great champion. All of Spain is sad," said Echavarri.
Abraham Olano, the 1995 World road race champion and who is the newly signed leader of the Banesto team, said that Indurain had helped cycling become front page news.
"We have to respect Miguel's decision. I look back with fond memories on his sportsmanship which has helped make cycling one of the world's most respected sports and inevitably we the cyclists are similarly respected," Olano said.
Miguel Indurain's Tour de France record
Tours: 12 1985: retired (4th stage) 1986: retired (12th stage) 1987: 97th 1988: 47th 1989: 17th, won one stage (Cauterets) 1990: 10th, won one stage (Luz-Ardiden) 1991: 1st, won two stages, both time-trials (Alencon, Lugny) 1992: 1st, won three stages, all time-trials (Saint Sebastian, Luxemburg, Blois) 1993: 1st, won two stages, both time-trials (Puy du Fou, Lac de Madine) 1994: 1st, won one stage, time-trial (Bergerac) 1995: 1st, won two stages, both time-trials (Seraing, Lac de Vassiviere) 1996: 11th
Comparative table of five time Tour de France winners
Total Wins France Italy Spain Eddy Mercx (Bel) 11 5 5 1 Bernard Hinault (Fra) 10 5 3 2 Jacques Anquetil (Fra) 8 5 2 1 Miguel Indurain (Spa) 7 5 2 0
Tour de France results
Tours DNFs Wins Stage Day's KOM Points Raced Wins in Jerseys Jerseys Yellow Jacques Anquetil (bn.1934) 8 2 5 16 51 0 0 Eddy Mercx (bn.1945) 7 0 5 34 96 2 3 Bernard Hinault (bn.1954) 8 1 5 28 78 1 1 Miguel Indurain (bn.1964) 12 2 5 12 60 0 0