Cycling / Tour de France: Trial clears Paris road for Indurain

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MIGUEL INDURAIN took a giant step towards victory in this year's Tour de France after dominating yesterday's 65-kilometre time trial in Luxembourg.

As expected, or feared in some quarters, most of the heavyweights came to the fore yesterday, but the mighty Indurain outpunched everybody to win by three minutes from Armand de las Cuevas, his French team-mate.

Indurain's ride at an average speed of 49.038kph (30.47mph) over an undulating course sent last year's Tour winner into second place behind Pascal Lino of France with a tantalising 1min 27sec still to claw back.

With the warming inspiration of the yellow jersey on his shoulders, Lino fought hard to defend his colours. After all, he had opened his professional career in 1989 by winning the Tour of the European Community in Luxembourg.

Yesterday he came off better than the contenders Claudio Chiappucci and, more surprisingly, Eric Breukink, who was more than six minutes slower than the Spanish express.

Lino was two seconds slower than Greg LeMond, who is within three minutes of Indurain, with Gianni Bugno a further 12 seconds adrift. Stephen Roche's seventh place belied his fears about his back trouble, and lifted him to fourth overall, 2min 48sec away from Indurain.

'I thought I was having a good day and I lost four minutes,' an astonished LeMond remarked. 'I thought for a moment I must have taken the wrong course.'

'Either he is a lot better than last year or we all are a lot worse,' Bugno said. 'No one except Indurain could have done what he did today.'

For eight days the Spaniard had been content to sit back in the pack, but when it was time to show his stuff, he was ready. 'The race fit my style today,' Indurain said. 'I needed a good race and I got a good time. Sure I gained an advantage, but now I have to protect it. I expect the next few stages to be difficult, but there are still two weeks to go. I'm confident but prudent.'

The course, around Luxembourg, was flat but had a stretch on a highway when the cyclists could really pedal. He moved away from the field from the start, gaining a margin of more than a minute over the first 22 kilometres, which grew to almost two minutes by the mid-point of the stage.

Laurent Fignon, twice winner of the Tour, started six minutes before Indurain, and followed him into the finish. He summed up the experience simply. 'This guy is not an aeroplane. He is a rocket,' he said.

It looks as though the 1992 Tour is already history. Who will finish second is the next question, or perhaps fate has some surprises up its sleeve for the next 12 days. Certainly men like Roche and LeMond will not walk away from the fight, though Bugno appeared almost to be ready to concede when he said: 'I can't see where we can get the time back. Unless he makes a mistake we can start fighting for second place.'

At 1.88 metres Indurain stands taller than Francois Faber, who is known as the Colossus of Colombes. He is the only Tour rider to win five consecutive stages covering a route stretching from Roubaix near the Belgian border to the coast of the Mediterranean. He was 22, one of the youngest starters, when he won the 1909 Tour. Faber is revered in Luxembourg, but was French-born and adopted his father's native land.

After two relatively flat stages today and tomorrow the riders can enjoy a rest day on Thursday before the Tour hits the Alps for three days, including the climb to Alpe d'Huez on Sunday.

Tour history touched a poignant moment yesterday - the 25th anniversary of the death of Britain's Tom Simpson.

It was on 13 July, 1967 that he collapsed in the shimmering heat of the Ventoux mountain, and died later. He lives on, however, as Britain's first and only wearer of the yellow jersey.

TOUR DE FRANCE Ninth stage (65km, individual time trial, Luxembourg): 1 M Indurain (Banesto, Sp) 1hr 19min 31sec; 2 A de las Cuevas (Banesto, Fr) +3min 00sec; 3 G Bugno (Gatorade, It) +3:41; 4 Z Jaskula (GB-MG, Pol) +3:47; 5 G LeMond (Z, US) +4:04; 6 P Lino (RMO, Fr) +4:06; 7 S Roche (Carrera, Irl) +4:10; 8 A Kasputis (Ryalcao, Lith) +4:26; 9 A Zulle (ONCE, Swit) +4:29; 10 P Delgado (Banesto, Sp) +4:52; 11 J-F Bernard (Banesto, Fr) +4:54; 12 J Skibby (TVM, Den) +4:59; 13 P Louviot (ONCE, Fr) +5:01; 14 S Yates (Motorola, GB) +5:10; 15 G Perini (Carrera, It) +5:21. Selected: 18 C Chiappucci (Carrera, It) +5:26; 76 S Kelly (Festina, Irl) +9:29; 78 R Millar (TVM, GB) +9:40; 130 M Earley (PDM, Irl) +12:03.

Overall: 1 Lino 36hr 59min 3sec; 2 Indurain +1min 27sec; 3 Skibby +3:47; 4 Roche +4:15; 5 LeMond +4:27; 6 Bugno +4:39; 7 J Heppner (Telekom, Ger) +4:52; 8 Chiappucci +4:54; 9 Y Ledanois (Castorama, Fr) +5:52; 10 A Leanizbarrutia (CLAS, Sp) +6:15; 11 G Perini (Carrera, It) +6:50; 12 P Delgado (Banesto, Sp) +7:11; 13 S Bauer (Motorola, Can) +7:31; 14 L Fignon (Gatorade, Fr) +7:44; 15 R Alcala (PDM, Mex) +7:46. Selected: 32 Millar +12:21; 38 Kelly +14:56; 84 Yates +29:33; 88 Earley +30:32.

(Maps omitted)