Cycling: Quiet man of the Tour: Robin Nicholl with the Tour de France

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The Independent Online
GYPSIES stole his first bike when he was 12, but no one is taking much away from Miguel Indurain these days. He rides into Paris today wearing for a second year the yellow jersey of Tour de France leader, and in a year when Spain has cornered much prestige. His triumph in the Tour, coupled with his June victory in the Tour of Italy, makes him the first since Stephen Roche in 1987 to achieve this double.

He is only the sixth to do so, and he is also on course to be the fastest winner since the first race in 1903. Even allowing for yesterday's easy-paced stage into Nanterre, Indurain seems sure to overtake his team-mate Pedro Delgado's fastest average, 38.9 kph, for the total distance. In Friday's time trial at Blois he averaged 52.3 kph to strengthen his grip on the lead.

Yet no one will hear Indurain speak of his exploits, let alone boast. He is a man of very few words, but the whole of Spain will speak for him.

Two million francs are his today for winning the Tour, but it has little chance of changing his modest lifestyle. It must please his sponsors Banesto, a major banking corporation, that Indurain has banked his considerable earnings.

He prefers to be at home with his family at Villava near Pamplona, meeting with old school friends and his girlfriend, Marisa, perhaps occasionally hunting rabbits near the family small-holding.

'I am the only one who worried Indurain,' his rival Claudio Chiappucci said, but if he did there was never a trace of anxiety in those soulful Spanish eyes. The nearest he came to an outburst was when the Danish rider Jesper Skibby accidentally trod on his bare foot. 'He is gentle, disciplined, and relaxed, but on the bike he is a monster,' his team- mate Jean-Francois Bernard said.

The 'monster' has devoured the opposition this year, and after 3,983 kilometres of pedalling concedes that he is 'a little tired.'

Yesterday the 130 survivors of a 198 starting list kept the pace down on the 222-kilometre leg from Blois, over the extensive flat farmland of La Beauce. It was like the last day of term with a little clowning to ease the pressures.

French rider Jacky Durand pedalled ahead of the pack, dismounted and applauded as they went past, then chased to rejoin. Switzerland's Rolf Jaermann got serious after 143 kilometres, and drew away with seven others who were also no threat to Indurain.

It was the time for the have-nots to have something, and Peter de Clercq held out to give Belgium their second stage win. An unperturbed Indurain and company arrived some seven minutes later.

TOUR DE FRANCE Stage 20 (222km, Blois to Nanterre): 1 P De Clercq (Buckler, Bel) 6hr 3min 36sec; 2 F Vanzella (GB-MG, It); 3 T Laurent (RMO, Fr); 4 R Jaermann (Ariostea, Swit); 5 D Krieger (Helvetia, Ger); 6 J Uriarte (Banesto, Sp); 7 M Dernies (Motorola, Bel); 8 M Den Bakker (PDM, Neth) all s/t; 9 B Holm (Tulip, Den) +3min 49sec; 10 R Van Slycke (Lotto, Bel) +3:51; 11 J Museeuw (Lotto, Bel) +7:31; 12 L Jalabert (Once, Fr); 13 G Fidanza (Gatorade, It); 14 O Ludwig (Panasonic, Ger); 15 C Chiappucci (Carrera, It) all s/t. Selected: 34 S Kelly (Festina, Irl) +7min 31sec; 53 M Earley (PDM, Irl); 63 S Roche (Carrera, Irl); 81 R Millar (TVM, GB); 85 S Yates (Motorola, GB) all s/t.

Overall: 1 M Indurain (Banesto, Sp) 97hr 20min 53sec; 2 C Chiappucci (Carrera, It) +4:35; 3 G Bugno (Gatorade, It) +10:49; 4 A Hampsten (Motorola, US) +13:40; 5 P Lino (RMO, Fr) +14:37; 6 P Delgado (Banesto, Sp) +15:16; 7 E Breukink (PDM, Neth) +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; 80 Earley +2:21:25; 83 Yates +2:24:44.

(Photograph and maps omitted)

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