Cycling: Indurain swaps Tour de France for tour de force: Road specialist's finest hour robs Obree of world distance record - over 53 kilometres in 60 minutes

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AFTER four straight victories in the Tour de France, Miguel Indurain found a new way to prove himself the world's foremost cyclist yesterday - breaking Graham Obree's record for distance covered in one hour.

Cheered on by his wife and Basque-flag waving fans who had made the short trip from Spain to southwestern France, Indurain covered 53.04 kilometres (32.96 miles) in his first attempt at the mark. This bettered by more than 300m the record of 52.713km set in April by Scotland's Obree on the same wooden track at the Bordeaux-Lac velodrome. Obree himself had taken the mark from England's Chris Boardman, who covered 52.27km in July 1993. Both were track world champions whereas Indurain is accustomed to the road. 'The pace in training was planned for 52.70 (km),' he said. 'I was going better than that.'

The 30-year-old Spaniard dropped behind Obree's early pace and was trailing by almost five seconds after completing five kilometres in five minutes, 43.9 seconds. After 10km the gap was down to 1.9 seconds, after 15km, 1.1sec. By the 20th kilometre Indurain had overtaken Obree's time, 22:38.54 to 22:39.03; by the 30th he was 5.9sec up. Over the next 10 he increased that by 11sec, and by 50km the lead was more than 20sec.

Indurain had prepared for the record over the past 10 days on a new hi-tech, 15lb bike with special lightweight material and a carbon disc back wheel. To maintain top speed Indurain had to adopt a position slightly different to the one he employs in the Tour de France.

'In the middle I had a small mental lapse because I just couldn't get comfortable on the seat. But I managed to get the rhythm again and in the end I made it,' he said.

The record will not go unchallenged. Boardman and Indurain are both planning assaults next year, probably at a high-altitude location in Mexico.

This latest achievement may also help Indurain put a doping controversy behind him. During the Tour d'Oise in May he tested positive for taking salbutamol, a drug allowed in most countries but permitted in France only by prescription - and even then only in a nasal-spray form approved on a case-by-case basis.

Indurain used the drug in Ventoline, a nasal inhaler, to

improve respiration but passed every drug test during the Tour de France stages.

Gianni Bugno, twice a winner of world championship road races, has tested positive for use of the banned substance, caffeine, and now faces a possible two-year ban. The 30-year-old

Italian said last week that he would retire if suspended.

(Photograph omitted)