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Indurain marks Olympic return with time trial gold

Miguel Indurain Getty
03 Aug 1996
Atlanta 1996, Olympic News, Cycling Road, Spain

Spanish road cyclist Miguel Indurain returned to the Olympic stage in Atlanta following a 12-year hiatus. And he was quite literally a man with unfinished business. His first appearance at the Games had come in the men’s road race at Los Angeles 1984, where he had failed to finish. He was then barred from entering the 1988 and 1992 Games as he had turned professional.

For the Atlanta Games, though, the rules had been changed, with professionals now allowed to take part, and so at the age of 32, Indurain returned to the Olympic stage.

Since struggling in Los Angeles, Indurain had gone on to win the Tour de France five times in a row (between 1991 and 1995), although some wondered whether he was now past his best. He had finished a surprisingly low 11th in the 1996 Tour and had seriously considered giving the Games a miss. But in the end the allure of a gold medal proved too strong.

Question marks over his strength remained, though, and certainly Indurain did not shine in his first event, the road race, where he could finish only 26th as the gold medal went to Switzerland’s Pascal Richard

That left him with one final opportunity to shine – the time trial, which had been added to the Olympic programme for these Games. Over the years, the event had always brought the best out of speed merchant Indurain, and he started among the favourites.

The early pace was set by Chris Boardman, the British rider who had made the transition from the velodrome to the road, having won gold in the individual pursuit four years earlier. The Briton held the lead until the penultimate cyclist crossed the line, with Indurain’s fellow Spaniard, Abraham Olano going nearly 20 seconds quicker.

That left just Indurain himself. He had gone off last and was already well ahead of Boardman’s split times. It seemed clear that the two Spaniards were going to finish first and second – but it was still unclear which of them would take the gold.

Miguel Indurain Getty

Rain had poured down during the middle of the event, flooding the track, but it had eased off towards the latter stages and the sun was now beating down as Indurain crossed the line. He finished 12 seconds ahead of Olano’s time to add an Olympic gold to his remarkable collection of cycling honours.

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