Basque Fact of the Week: Miguel Indurain, One of the Greatest Cyclists Ever

Miguel Indurain Larraya is recognized as one of the greatest cyclists in the history of cycling. He is one of four people to win five Tours de France (Lance Armstrong‘s victories were stripped when he admitted to doping). Indurain holds the distinction, however, of being the only one to win his five Tours consecutively, winning the Tours from 1991 to 1995. Not only did he win five Tours, he also won the Giro d’Italia twice, being only one of seven riders who won both the Giro and the Tour in the same season. He also won the individual time trial at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Jul 1995: Miguel Indurain of Spain in action during stage two of the Tour de France, in France. \ Mandatory Credit: Mike Powell /Allsport
  • Indurain was born in Villava, Nafarroa, just outside of Pamplona/Iruña. Villava is a small town that was founded in 1184 by King Sancho VI the Wise.
  • His first bike, given to him by his dad when he was 10, was stolen a year later. Indurain worked the fields with his dad to buy a new one. However, it wasn’t until he was 14 that he competed in his first race and by 18 he had won the national amateur road championship.
  • To understand Indurain’s almost superhuman abilities, many tests were performed on him. These tests revealed that (1) his blood cycled 7 liters of oxygen through his body per minute (the average person only cycles about 3-4 liters per minute), (2) his cardiac output was 50 liters per minute, compared to about 5 liters per minute for the average person at rest, (3) his lung capacity was 7.8 liters, compared to an average of about 6, (4) his resting pulse reached 28 beats per minute, while the average person’s is 60-72, and (5) his VO2 max was 88 ml/kg/min compared to an average of 35-40 ml/kg/min for a healthy but untrained man. It is these superior physiological qualities that are suspected to have given Indurain such an advantage.
  • Cycling is very popular in the Basque Country and the region has produced a large number of cyclists. The Tour of the Basque Country weaves through the region every year. Indurain competed in the Tour of the Basque Country in 1990, taking 3rd place.

Primary source: Wikipedia.

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