When Miguel Indurain was young, he played football and participated in athletics, but cycling did not catch his attention. When he was 12 years old, this changed: he participated in a cycle race for the first time and immediately fell in love with the sport. In 1978, he started as an amateur cyclist with 'Club Ciclista Villavés' and five years later he became Spanish Champion with the amateurs. The following year, in 1984, he started his professional cycling career with the Reynolds cycling team.
It proved to be a good choice for Miguel to get on his bike. To this day he is the only cyclist besides Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault to have won the Tour de France five times. But Miguel went even further and won the Tour five years in a row (the only one who achieved this was Lance Armstrong, but these victories were scrapped because of doping). To achieve this, Indurain used the same strategy as Anquetil: he won the time trials and he held his own in the mountains. But, even though he was not the best climber, he actually did more than just hold on. He too could certainly put pressure on his opponents during the climbs.
Miguel Indurain at the Tour de France of 1990
Miguel Indurain didn't exactly have the typical physique for a cyclist who has to cover long distances. He was 1.88 metres tall and weighed 80 kilograms, which led to his nickname: Miguelon - Big Miguel, but it was usually shortened to Big Mig. In addition to his height and strength, Indurain was said to have a phenomenal lung capacity of eight litres and a resting heart rate of 29 beats per minute. He himself says that this has never been measured and that this is not important either, but rather the passion for cycling.
As mentioned above Miguel won the Tour de France five years in a row, however he had a difficult start. He dropped out in both '85 and '86, but improved year by year until he won the Tour for the first time in '91. In the next four years he dominated the race, which is one of the most important cycling events in the world. He went down in history as the world's leading cyclist during that period.
Indurain and his team celebrate the victory at the 1991 Tour de France
On top of this impressive winning streak, in '92 he also became the sixth rider to win both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France in the same season, which he repeated in 1993. This made him the first rider to win both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France in one season two years in a row. He also became Spanish road champion in 1992, took silver at the 1993 World Championships behind Lance Armstrong and took gold at the 1996 Summer Olympics in the individual time trial. Indurain's Tour winning streak ended in 1996 when he suffered bronchitis during the Tour, which ironically passed through his home village in Spain that year.
Indurain in the pink jersey at the 1993 Giro d'Italia
Limited media attention
Throughout his career Miguel was regularly criticised for being introverted. His teammates sometimes joked about it, but Miquel is certainly not cold or shy. He simply did not like being in the centre of attention, which was actually quite refreshing for a top athlete. Yet he received little attention in the media. Reasons given for this were that he focused too much on the Tour de France and less on other cycling events. However, it could also be that his calm personality was the reason why journalists had less stories to tell about him.
Nevertheless, Miguel was one of the best cyclists of his time. With his indomitable strength and respect for both his opponents and his fans, he could count on a lot of popularity. His incredible results throughout the 1990s, when he dominated the world of cycling, made him one of the greatest sports icons in history.
In the end, Indurain was also voted the best Spanish athlete of the 20th century. This is a very great honour in a country as football-mad as Spain. This award shows again how great a legend Indurain is with his outstanding successes!
The end of his career
In 1997 Miguel Indurain officially put an end to his professional cycling career. He did this with doubt, because he still wanted to obtain that sixth Tour victory and he was physically strong enough to do so. But professional cycling demanded a lot from him and he wanted more time for his family. So he finally made up his mind and went to the Basque Country with his family. His passion for cycling continued, however, as he sat on the Professional Cycling Council and the Spanish Olympic Committee.
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