By Paul Verkuylen
Miguel Indurain was an extraordinary man on a bike, but despite all his fame, he remains the humble son of a farmer. During his illustrious career, Indurain experienced many changes, from the influx of non-European riders to the change in the structure of the racing calendar. The retired racer shared his thoughts on the ProTour and the impact he believes it may have on cycling.
Indurain became the first rider to win five consecutive Tours de France in the 1990's, putting himself onto the list of cycling legends by dominating his rivals in the time trials and limiting his loses in the mountains. After winning the Tour from 1991-1995, he retired from professional cycling shortly after abandoning the Vuelta in 1996, which he was forced to ride by his Banesto team. Since that time, he has remained close to his roots, happily living in Pamplona, just five kilometers from his birth town of Villava.
"It was a bit difficult at first [retiring]. But since then life has been good and I am happy," he explained.
Indurain has taken a less pronounced role in his retirement than other living legends like Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault, preferring to lead a quiet, simple life running a sporting goods store in his home town while putting time into furthering the sport. On top of working in the ProTour commission for the UCI, he also writes for Marca, one of Spain's leading newspapers, as well as making time to ride his bike on occasion. "But only during the summer, a couple of times a week," he stressed.
During his decade in the peloton, Indurain saw plenty of changes in the professional cycling. He witnessed the rise of the UCI's World Cup, which replaced the old Super Prestige series in 1989. At one stage of his career, Indurain was able to use the Vuelta as preparation for the Tour de France, before it was moved from the spring to its current time slot in late summer. Since his retirement in 1996, Indurain has remained active in the sport, and was in Australia in January to witness the first step in the UCI's attempt at globalising the sport: the Tour Down Under, the first ProTour event ever held outside Europe.
Indurain believes that countries outside Europe have a place on the calendar alongside the more traditional countries of France, Italy, Spain, Belgium and Holland. "I think that cycling has to change, so I am a supporter of the globalisation of cycling," he said. "It is not easy to say what exactly needs to be changed because it is still just the start of the change, but I think that there are a lot of things that need to be done."
'Big Mig' never had a chance to race in the Australian or American races which emerged on the calendar since his retirement, but he supports the addition of the Tour Down Under to the professional calendar for the riders as well as the fans. "Cycling is growing, so I think that it is important that cycling is also accessible to those nations," he said.
While the UCI's ProTour has encountered plenty of difficulties during its development over the past four years, Indurain said that the problems are by no means new to the sport, but stem from resistance to change. "These are not just a problem of today, the problems started a long time ago," he explained.
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