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  Tuesday, 31 July, 2001, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Clash of the Titans
Lance Armstrong and Miguel Indurain go head-to-head in a battle between two modern day greats in the Tour de France
BBC Sport Online puts Lance Armstrong, the winner of the 2001 Tour de France, head-to-head against Miguel Indurain, one of the great masters of the event.

The categories: | Tour achievements | All-round talents | Style | Preparation | Time trials | Mountains | Attitude | Conclusion

Lance Armstrong's third successive Tour de France victory has put him alongside the event's great cyclists.

The American is only the fifth man to win a hat-trick of Tours.

But four men have five to their name, and at the top of that list is Miguel Indurain.

"Big Mig" and Armstrong were 27 when they won their first Tour and each set standards for their peloton peers.

Tour achievements

  Tour legends
Five-time winners
Jacques Anquetil
1957, '61, '62, '63 & 64
Eddy Merckx
1969, '70, '71, '72 & '74
Bernard Hinault
1978, '79, '81, '82 & '85
Miguel Indurain
1991, '92, '93, '94 & '95

Hat-trick heroes
Louison Bobet
1953, 54 & '55
Jacques Anquetil
1961 - 1964
Eddy Merckx
1969 - 1972
Miguel Indurain
1991 - 1995
Lance Armstrong
1999, 2000 & '01
  Indurain's Tour record
Born: 16 February 1964
12 Tours - 5 wins
1985 - Did not finish
1986 - Did not finish
1987 - 97th
1988 - 47th
1989 - 17th
One stage win
1990 - 10th
One stage win
1991 - Winner
Two stage wins
1992 - Winner
Three stage wins
1993 - Winner
Two stage wins
1994 - Winner
One stage win
1995 - Winner
Two stage wins
1996 - 11th
  Armstrong's Tour record
Born: 18 September 1971
7 Tours - 3 wins
1993 - Did not finish
One stage win
1994 - Did not finish
1995 - 36th
One stage win
1996 - Did not finish
1997 - Did not race
1998 - Did not race
1999 - Winner
Four stage wins
2000 - Winner
One stage win
2001 - Winner
Four stage wins
His tactic for taking the major prize was to smash his rivals in the time trials and defend this lead in the mountains.

In contrast Armstrong attacks whenever the opportunity is presented, and his three mountain stage wins represent domination that is never dull.

But the American has still not won over the French press and public who remain unsure of the outsider who recovered from cancer.

Indurain was the king in more innocent days when doping was not such an issue.

But, leaving that aside, in football terms Armstrong is like Brazil 1970 with Indurain playing George Graham's Arsenal.

Miguel Indurain - 7
Lance Armstrong - 9

Preparation

Armstrong's meticulous management of his schedule has added a new dimension to the science of cycling.

In years gone by cyclists would roll up to the starting line relying on second-hand accounts and their own memories of the road ahead.

But the American rides - and even films - parts of key stages so that he knows all the nuances of the road.

Lance Armstrong rides to victory in 2000
Armstrong leads the way
When to break? Where to change gear? Which line to take? Nothing is left to chance.

Indurain's pre-Tour preparation was focused on "match-fitness" and twice he won the yellow jersey on the back of wins in the Giro d'Italia.

His challengers thought they were in with a chance in 1994 when "Big Mig" lost the Giro but he still went on and dominated.

But Armstrong is now setting new standards here, arguably revolutionising the sport as other riders follow his lead.

Miguel Indurain - 7
Lance Armstrong - 9

Time trials

Indurain was the undisputed king against the watch and his five victories were founded there.

In 1992 he won one early time trial in Luxembourg by a staggering margin of over three minutes.

Miguel Indurain cycles against the clock in 1994
Indurain's speed against the clock was phenomenal
Bugno, Alex Zülle and Chiappucci were left to fight over second place for the remaining two weeks.

Armstrong has also dominated here but if the pair were to go head to head off the ramp, Armstrong would have to make do with an unaccustomed second place.

Miguel Indurain - 10
Lance Armstrong - 8

Mountains

Armstrong would be confident of making up any time lost in the time trial on the Tour's mountain stages.

The American won his first yellow jersey against a weakened field and was expected to face trouble in the mountains when Marco Pantani returned in 2000.

But he more than matched the Italian climbing specialist and after his performance in 2001 it is amazing to think that his ability in the mountains was ever questioned.

Armstrong made the peloton look pedestrian as he shot up Alpe d'Huez before repeating the trick in the Pyrenees.

Although Indurain lacked this explosive quality he was more than able to defend the advantage he had opened up in the time trial.

Lance Armstrong - the judgement
The 1994 race was even dubbed the "anti-Indurain Tour" such were the number of mountain stages, yet the master still won.

But when his run finally came to an end in 1996, at the hands of Denmark's Bjarne Riis, it was the mountains that proved his downfall.

Indurain's relatively weaker climbing was a weakness that Armstrong would undoubtedly prey on much as he does now with Jan Ullrich.

Miguel Indurain - 7
Lance Armstrong - 9

Attitude

One of the great unknowns is whether Armstrong would have more Tour titles under his belt if his career had not been interrupted.

In 1996, at the age of 25, he was diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer and only returned to the sport after intense chemotherapy treatment.

Miguel Indurain - the judgement
Armstrong has since said that having ridden to live he now lives to ride - his focus is total.

His change in attitude has added a ruthless streak and in 2001 the American came back from a deficit of over 30 minutes to claim victory in the Tour.

When Indurain faced his toughest challenge in the Tour in 1996 he cracked and, despite winning Olympic gold in Atlanta, retired from cycling.

Miguel Indurain - 9
Lance Armstrong - 10

Conclusion

The record books suggest that Miguel Indurain was the greatest Tour rider.

Yet Lance Armstrong appears to have the edge over the Spaniard, mainly because he is so ruthless and such an all-round talent.

Whether Armstrong will ever be ranked as better than Eddy Merckx is another question entirely.

The Belgian legend raced in an entirely different era, winning all the year round, which means a comparison is impossible.

Unfortunately for Armstrong and Indurain, Merckx will always be ranked at a higher level than either.

Miguel Indurain - 58
Lance Armstrong - 61

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