Indurain: Spain’s low-profile hero

  • By Andrew Hood
  • Published Jan. 19, 2012
  • Updated Jan. 20, 2012 at 12:01 PM EDT

Unlike many ex-pros who hang around the sport, serving as sport directors or working in the media, Indurain has preferred to stay close to home.

He rarely appears at races or other public events. He writes an occasional column for the Spanish sports daily, MARCA, but otherwise keeps a very low profile.

Indurain simply says he likes to be with his family and children.

“When you’re a professional, you’re away from home most of the year, racing, training and traveling,” he said. “Now I want to enjoy my family.”

Indurain has been largely immune to accusations of doping. So far, the Spanish media has left the iconic star alone while other contemporaries of the 1990s era have either admitted to using or been singled out as abusing EPO and other performance-enhancing drugs.

But Indurain has always been discrete, both during his racing career and after.

Indurain became a national hero in the 1990s as a symbol of a resurgent Spain.

Coupled with the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, Indurain’s five-straight Tour victories helped Spain project a modern image following decades of dictatorial dominance with Franco and a transition to democracy in the 1970s and 1980s.

Indurain fever swept Spain and bars would fill up each afternoon to watch live broadcasts of the Tour stages. When the Tour would enter the Pyrénées, thousands of crazed Spanish fans would clog the roads on the steepest climbs.

In 2011, there were scores of retrospectives on the 20th anniversary of Indurain’s first of five Tour victories.

His Tour run ended in 1996, when Indurain couldn’t respond to the attacks in the French Alps from Bjarne Riis, who later admitted he was doping on EPO en route to winning that year.

Two weeks later, when the Tour rolled into Pamplona in what was meant to be a homage to the Spanish star, Indurain would eventually finish 11th in what would be his final Tour.

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Andrew Hood

Andrew Hood

Andrew Hood cut his journalistic teeth at Colorado dailies before the web boom opened the door to European cycling in the mid-1990s. Hood has covered every Tour de France since 1996 and has been VeloNews' European correspondent since 2002.

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