Cycling hails a champion as Indurain retires...

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The Independent Online
Miguel Indurain, arguably Spain's greatest sportsman, yesterday brought his cycling career to an end in a hotel in his home town of Pamplona.

The only man to win the Tour de France five years in a row, no longer has the hunger to compete at the top level. "I've dedicated enough time to professional cycling," Indurain said. "After deliberating this decision for a long time, I believe I have made the best decision for myself and my family."

Indurain, 32, began considering retiring in 1996 after some uninspired performances. He finished a dismal 11th in the Tour de France in July and dropped out of the Tour of Spain because of a cold.

Indurain, whose career has made him a wealthy man, is to dedicate himself "to other pursuits". He did not specify what they might be.

Indurain said he was glad to have been able to crown his career with a gold medal in the men's time trial in the 1996 Olympic Games, in Atlanta. He also won the Tour of Italy twice.

In July, Indurain appeared to lack the tremendous drive in the Tour de France that in other years had made him dominant. The Tour de France director, Jean-Marie LeBlanc, said: "I think that psychologically, he is a bit saturated. At his age, soon to be 33, he has known all the success, glory, fame and material comfort and no longer has the hunger for cycling he did over the last few years."

No other athlete in Spain where football is by far the most popular sport commands such admiration, respect and enthusiasm from Spaniards, especially in his native Navarre region of northern Spain, of which Pamplona is the capital.

Indurain's laconic manner as a champion cast against type in the flashy, big-money world of international sport has much to do with his appeal.

"It is not easy to forget all that Miguel has done, but in the end we will remember Miguel the person more than the cyclist," said Abraham Olano, the 1995 world road champion who is widely seen as the most promising successor to Indurain.

Matchless but modest Indurain, page 25