Tour de France: Bradley Wiggins in the tracks of a legend

There are many similarities between leader and his hero, five-time Tour winner, Miguel Indurain

When Bradley Wiggins was 13 years old and living in Kilburn, his dream of winning the Tour de France was inspired by riding his bike on a home trainer in his mother's flat and watching Miguel Indurain ride to victory after victory on the living-room telly.

"Miguel Indurain – Big Mig – was the Tour de France rider I identified with," Wiggins wrote in his autobiography, In Pursuit of Glory. "I loved his power and style and the inscrutable way he had about him. You never really knew whether he was struggling or not and whether he was stressed or not."

Wiggins now has his best chance yet to follow in the wheel tracks of his idol and stand in yellow on the Champs-Elysées, as the Basque legend did for five straight Tours, from 1991 to 1995.

Both Wiggins and Indurain stand well over 6ft, but the parallels do not end there. Just as a large component of Wiggins' potential victory this year was his time trial performance in Besançon on Monday, Indurain's Tour wins were in large part forged in his domination of races against the clock. The high point of the Spaniard's time trialling came in Luxembourg in 1992, when he gained more than three minutes on the entire field and as good as won the Tour.

Wiggins' victory in Besançon was a much closer affair – although he managed to gain nearly two minutes on his arch-rival, Cadel Evans – but there was more than an echo of "Miguelon", who was also known as "the Alien", in the tall, gaunt Briton's clinical and faultless performance; he beat out a relentless rhythm for kilometre after kilometre to leave his rivals reeling.

Then there are the mountain stages. During this year's Critérium du Dauphiné, which Indurain won twice as Wiggins has done, the Briton compared Team Sky to Indurain's lifelong squad, Banesto. He had been protected by his team-mates on the Col du Joux Plane, the race's toughest climb, just like Indurain 20 years before.

How far can the parallels extend? Wiggins is aiming to win his first Tour at the age of 32; Indurain was 27. The Spaniard made an impact on stage racing in his first year as a professional, 1986, when he became the youngest ever leader of the Tour of Spain. Wiggins, after eight years, suddenly smashed his way into the Tour hierarchy with fourth place in 2009.

"The biggest similarity is in their strategies," the 1988 Tour winner, Pedro Delgado, a former team-mate of Indurain who commentates for Spanish television, told The Independent. "Both of them dominate the time trials, open up an advantage there, and then play a defensive game in the mountain stages. Position-wise, too, they look very similar: you can tell by the way their upper bodies don't move. And when Wiggins, like Indurain, is in a time trial, you can tell he's totally focused."

Michael Hutchinson, like Wiggins a British time trial champion, said: "As racers, there are similarities. But Wiggins has a skinnier profile than Indurain, largely because Indurain had this massive lung capacity. Bradley aerodynamically is very good, he has a 'fuselage form' – if you look at his shoulders and his hips, you could fit his upper body into a tube. His back is so flat when he's in a time trial you could balance a tea tray on it."

Benito Urraburu, a Basque journalist who has followed the Tour since 1983, points out that Wiggins' background is in track cycling while Indurain came from road racing. But the two riders' tactic of losing weight to improve their climbing ability – Wiggins has shed 12kg since Beijing 2008, while Indurain lost roughly 6kg between his early days and first Tour win – is identical.

"The tactics are very similar," says Urraburu. "Indurain rarely attacked in the mountains. But like Wiggins and [Chris] Froome on the longer climbs in the Tour of Spain last year and again in the Tour last Saturday in the Planches des Belles Filles [where Wiggins took the lead], Miguel knew how to keep such a high pace at the front that he could wear his rivals out and force them to crack."

Delgado says: "Miguel was different because there would always come a point where he would be alone in the mountains with the other top contenders; Wiggins, so far, always has someone to support him.

"Another difference is that I think Indurain was a much better descender than Wiggins. Evans has dropped Bradley on climbs, and I think he and [Italian rival Vincenzo] Nibali will probably try to do the same again. The one time Gianni Bugno" – one of Indurain's biggest challengers – "did that on a Tour, Miguel rode right past him on the descent, as if to say, 'Don't try those games with me.'"

In terms of personality, Wiggins and Indurain could not be more different – Wiggins' childhood was in London and he is much more nervy and articulate than Indurain, a placid countryman from the Navarre backwoods who is said to have got angry three times in his career, once when his foot was accidentally trodden on by a journalist (yours truly). Wiggins last outburst of rage – also provoked by a journalist (but not me), with a non-too-veiled reference to anonymous doping insinuations – came last Saturday.

There is another parallel with Indurain that Wiggins is aiming for. The Spaniard won Olympic gold in the time trial at the Atlanta Games in 1996. First though, there is that minor matter of taking yellow in Paris.

Head to head stats

Miguel Indurain

Born 16 July 1964, Navarre, Spain

Height 6ft 2in Weight 80kg

Tour de France debut 1985

Tours (stage wins) 12 (12)

Best Tour finish Winner 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995

Olympic medals Gold, time trial, 1996.

Bradley Wiggins

Born 28 April 1980, Ghent, Belgium

Height 6ft 3in Weight 69kg

Tour de France debut 2006

Tours (stage wins) 5 (1)

Best Tour finish Fourth (2009)

Olympic medals Bronze, team pursuit, 2000; Gold, 4km individual pursuit; Silver, team pursuit; Bronze, madison, all 2004; Gold, 4km individual pursuit gold, team pursuit, both 2008.

Suggested Topics
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all