Indurain's sensible sacrifice

Sports questions and answers
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Q. Miguel Indurain, who has won the Tour de France for the last four years, won the Midi Libre race in France on 29 May, but why did he not opt for the more prestigious Giro d'Italia, which finished last Sunday, in his preparations for the Tour?

A. In 1992 and 1993 Indurain won both the Giro and the Tour, the first time the double had been achieved in consecutive years. In 1994 he finished third in the Giro, beaten by riders who had prepared solely for it. The winner, Evgeni Berzin, had no intention of riding the Tour as well. Since Indurain's aim this year is almost certainly to become the first man to win the Tour five times in a row, he would have everything to lose by risking defeat at the hands of Tony Rominger, who had made no secret of his intention of winning the Giro and thereby drastically reducing his chances of ever winning the Tour (he is 34).

Secondly, Indurain has endured considerable criticism from the Spanish press for ignoring his own country's Tour, the Vuelta a Espana, in recent years. Now that it has been moved to September, he might well ride. He could not seriously contemplate riding all three major Tours in one year. It has been done, but not by pretenders to victory.

Thirdly, cycle racing is athletic. The Giro-Tour double was once considered impossible, and is in any case a rare feat, achieved previously by only five riders. There is no doubt two or three week-long stage races like the Midi Libre and the Dauphine Libere would be better preparation than an attempt to win a race that is often as long nowadays as the Tour, even though there is now a month gap between the two. These "minor" races can be very hard, and often include some of the large mountain cols that will be climbed in the Tour. - Ramin Minovi, Moseley

Q. How many of the 22 GM Vauxhall Conference teams would have been eligible for promotion to the Third Division had they won the Conference title? Is the present situation really as daft as it seems?

A. I feel that Steve Darlington (Q & A, 4 June) misses the point. I am all for smaller sides obtaining League status when deserved, but having a deadline for improving their grounds by 31 December surely encourages more clubs to give their loyal fans some additional comforts which they might not otherwise have had.

The idea of only improving your ground to stage a higher status of football might well be in the chairman's interest, but it surely is not in the wider interest of having some quality non-league grounds. - Tony Crosby, Whitley Bay

Q. Has there ever been such an unsuccessful - and costly - sporting deal as that recently concluded between Nigel Mansell and McLaren?

A. Manchester City paid a then record fee for a British player in September, 1979, when they bought Steve Daley from Wolverhampton Wanderers for over pounds 1.4m. Daley lasted 15 months at Maine Road, scoring just four goals in 47 league games before being transferred for pounds 300,000 (a loss of over pounds 1m) to Seattle Sounders in the United States. He ended his career at non-league Kettering.

Judgement must be reserved on Milan's Gianluigi Lentini, purchased from Torino in 1992 for pounds 13m, but it is all beginning to look like a costly mistake for Signor Berlusconi. - Adrian Brodkin, London N2

Q. Eric Cantona seems unusual among the sports fraternity in his artistic leadnings. Has any professional sportsman or woman enjoyed a career as a painter or sculptor?

A. After he retired from international rugby, the charismatic French captain and renowned flanker, Jean-Pierre Rives, became a sculptor in metal, having his work widely exhibited. - Simon Dooker, Leeds


Q. Following on from Birmingham's 49,000-strong support in the Autoglass final, which team has taken the most fans to a Wembley final? - Peter Morcom, Southport

Q. In the County Championship, which ground is the nearest to sea? Does this benefit the batters or the bowlers? - Kevin Maguire, Batley

Q. In National Hunt horse racing, when does a hurdle become a steeplechase and what is the difference? - Michael Finch, Leeds

Q. What are the greatest number of match points a tennis player has failed to convert, or successfully saved? I seem to recall Adriano Panatta saving a host of match points at the Italian Championships some time during the Seventies. - Simon Bullivant, London N7.

Q. Which riders hold the record for the most King of the Mountains and the most Points Classification wins in the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a Espana respectively? - Macdara Ferris, Blackrock, Co Dublin

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