Claudio Chiappucci, the last of the pretenders, was forced to bow to the 'Spanish express', who drove his overall lead out of the Italian's clutches in the beautiful Loire countryside where the Kings of France once had their out-of-town residences.
Yesterday had promised to be an imperial one for Indurain - he had already spreadeagled the field in the Luxembourg time trial and in many eyes had the leader's yellow jersey wrapped up.
He beat Chiappucci by 2min 53sec at Blois to send his overall lead to 4min 35sec, nearly a minute better than his 1991 win.
Indurain, though, insisted that it had been a tough day. 'It was hard until the end, and I found it difficult because my energy is running out faster now as the Tour reaches its end,' the man from the Basque country said.
'I had a difficult moment halfway through the ride, but managed to overcome it. To win a Tour a rider must be in good shape not only for time trials, but also to last 21 days.
'Some riders fight to win a stage but I have to fight to win the Tour. I would love a stage victory in the mountains, but I cannot give everything just for that, as many do, if I want to keep the yellow jersey.'
Time trials have been important to Tour triumphs over the last six years. Crucially so in 1989 when Greg LeMond shocked France by pulling the yellow jersey from Laurent Fignon's back in a race against the clock on the last day.
He won then by eight seconds, one of the Tour's tightest wins, and Stephen Roche's 1987 triumph was swung on the penultimate day when he wiped out a deficit of 22 seconds on Pedro Delgado, Indurain's team-mate, in a time test in Dijon.
That year the Irishman completed his famous treble of two Tours, France and Italy, and the world road race title. Indurain is heading for his second visit to the Champs Elysees podium on Sunday, and will be the first since Roche to take both Tours in the same year.
Yesterday, Indurain - who is not in the habit of humiliating rivals - allowed Gianni Bugno to stay within one second with 18 kilometres remaining. Then, as smoothly as the Loire flows, his pedalling opened the gap on Bugno, whose main concern was third place overall.
The Italian had forsaken the Tour of Italy to strengthen his French challenge, and needed to rescue something from his dreadful day in the Alps, if only to soften his critics at home.
He finished 40 seconds slower than Indurain, but had done enough to oust the American, Andy Hampsten, from a third place earned on the strength of his triumph at l'Alpe d'Huez.
Bugno also had stemmed the French challenge of Pascal Lino, whose 11 days in the yellow jersey had given the new hope a taste for success.
Whatever happens the French have had their most successful Tour for stage wins since 1987. Five so far, and there are two more chances at Nanterre and Paris.
If Laurent Jalabert can hang on to the green jersey of points leader it will be their first triumph in this department since 1979.
TOUR DE FRANCE Stage 19 (Individual time trial, 64km, Tours to Blois): 1 M Indurain (Banesto, Sp) 1hr 13min 21sec; 2 G Bugno (Gatorade, It) +40sec; 3 D Zhdanov (Panasonic, CIS) +2min 28sec; 4 J-F Bernard (Banesto, Fr) +2:37; 5 V Ekimov (Panasonic, CIS) +2:41; 6 C Chiappucci (Carrera, It) +2:53; 7 E Breukink (PDM, Neth) +2:57; 8 S Roche (Carrera, Irl) +3:11; 9 P Louviot (ONCE, Fr) +3:12; 10 G Perini (Carrera, It) +3:20; 11 P Delgado (Banesto, Sp) +3:26; 12 A Kasputis (Ryalcao, Lith) +3:35; 13 J Montoya (Amaya, Sp) +3:38; 14 F Vanzella (GB-MG, It) +3:54; 15 M Fondriest (Panasonic, It) +4:06. Selected: 18 S Yates (Motorola, GB) +4:51; 45 R Millar (TVM, GB) +7:05; 91 S Kelly (Festina, Irl) +9:55; 93 M Earley (PDM, Irl) +10:04.
Overall: 1 Indurain 91hr 9min 46sec; 2 Chiappucci +4min 35sec; 3 Bugno +10:49; 4 A Hampsten (Motorola, US) +13:40; 5 P Lino (RMO, Fr) +14:37; 6 Delgado +15:16; 7 Breukink +18:51; 8 G Perini (Carrera, It) +19:16; 9 Roche +20:23; 10 J Heppner (Telekom, Ger) +25:30; 11 F Vona (GB-MG, It) +25:43; 12 E Boyer (Z, Fr) +26:16; 13 G-J Theunisse (TVM, Neth) +27:07; 14 E Bouwmans (Panasonic, Neth) +28:35; 15 G Rue (Castorama, Fr) +28:48. Selected: 18 Millar +31:19. 43 Kelly +1hr 21min 37sec; 79 Earley 2:21:25; 82 Yates 2:24:44.
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