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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 August, 2004, 08:30 GMT 09:30 UK
1991-1995: Big Mig's masterclass
Miguel Indurain in the leader's yellow jersey
A common sight - Indurain in yellow
Jacques Anquetil and Eddy Merckx both won four in a row while Bernard Hinault did four in five years.

But until the 1990s nobody dominated the Tour quite like Miguel Indurain.

Indurain's physique was almost unique, with a resting heartbeat of 29 beats per minute and lungs which could scoop up eight litres of air.

It was against the watch that Indurain destroyed rivals with amazing power, before holding his advantage on the climbs.

Some said it made for boring racing, and it was certainly not as thrilling as the attacks of the Fausto Coppi era.

But Big Mig never had a real rival to stir the public's emotions, with five different runners-up falling short.

Nobody could consistenty match up to the man they called the "extra terrestrial".

TOUR WINNERS
1991: Miguel Indurain (Spa)
1992: Miguel Indurain (Spa)
1993: Miguel Indurain (Spa)
1994: Miguel Indurain (Spa)
1995: Miguel Indurain (Spa)

Unlike the other five-time winners Indurain did not win his first Tour. He did not even finish it, or his second race.

The next three results - 97th, 47th and 17th places - were hardly signs of what was to come.

But they represented a steady build-up to greatness, while Indurain was also serving the interests of 1988 Tour winner Pedro Delgado.

Waiting for the ailing Delgado in 1990 cost Indurain a position better than 10th.

But, as in 1989, he won a time trial and laid the foundations.

The result confirmed what the Banesto team already knew - their quiet man was ready to lead the team.

Miguel Indurain during a Tour time trial
Classic Indurain: In time trial action

Some people called Indurain boring in later years, those who forget a thrilling duel with Lemond in 1991.

The quiet Spanish country boy saw off the experienced American in the Pyrenees and then confirmed his win against the clock.

Perhaps the most notable moment in world sport to ever happen in Luxembourg followed in 1992.

The event was a time trial that many regard as the best in cycling history as Indurain came home three minutes quicker than anyone else.

His biggest challenger that year was Italian climber Claudio Chiappucci, who memorably won a stage into Sestrieres in his homeland.

The following years saw Swiss stars Tony Rominger and Alex Zulle, plus Russian Pietr Ugromov come second.

The machine appeared unbeatable, unflappabble and strangely did not appear to need too much effort to kill off the ambitions of his rivals.

DURING THIS ERA
Five straight wins for Indurain, but five different runners-up
Chris Boardman becomes Britain's second yellow jersey, Sean Yates the country's third just days later
That Tour, 1994, also saw the Tour's second visit to the UK
Terrible crashes - Laurent Jalabert's collision with a photo-taking police officer and Djamolidine Abdoujaparov's smash on the Champs d'Elysees
Worst of all was Fabio Casartelli's 1995 death in the Pyrenees

Yet there were memorable moments.

In 1994, Indurain answered his critics by attacking in the Pyrenees when a young Marco Pantani tempted him to follow up a climb.

The 1995 race saw Indurain prove just how he really could ride with a superb attack on a flatter stage into Liege in Belgium.

Belgian rider Johan Bruyneel, future Tour-winning team manager with US Postal, likened the tow he got that day to sitting behind a motorbike.

But 1995 would be Indurain's last win, and it was also a tragic Tour.

Italian Fabio Casartelli, Olympic gold medallist in Barcelona and a popular member of the Motorola team, died on a Pyrenean descent.

His team leader Lance Armstrong learned a lot about life and death in that dark period, winning a stage in tribute a few days later.

He was himself to learn a lot more about all this, and the Tour itself, over the next five years.





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