The extraterrestrial leaves us

The great king Miguel V, the cyclist who converted every summer France into a Spanish colony, retires from the sport

Miguel Indurain, the extraterrestrial, the only rider to win consecutively five times the Tour de France, said goodbye to cycling officially on January 2nd, 1997. The man who defined a whole new era in this epical and exhausting sport, the man who crushed the illusions of three generations of hopeful winners with his utter and virtually flawless domination of the most prestigious cycling race in the world (or the most prestigious race of any kind, for that matter), the man who made winning look easy, has left us.

Big Mig is gone.

And, with him, gone are all those long July afternoons when the Spanish spectator (and soon any spectator) would inevitably wind up vowing, with a node in his throat and a chill of pleasure running down his spine, that whoever claimed that following the same winning script over and over again was boring, had committed the unforgivable mistake of forgetting that the most difficult, and hence the most worthy to contemplate, goal, is not to reach the top, but to remain there. Gone are the time trials where one had to rub his eyes repeatedly to get convinced that there was no misprint in Indurain`s splits, and that this Navarran young man, with a ferocity and determination in such marked contrast with his humbleness off the bike, was truly blowing the watch up. Gone are the heat-blistered steep mountain stages when the question which arose every time one of Indurain`s big rivals attacked was not whether Big Mig would be able to neutralize his move, but how long Big Mig would need to neutralize his move. Gone are all those flat, long, and apparently uneventful stages, where the fact that nothing seemed to happen soon became interpreted, not as proof that Big Mig was a boring champ, but on the contrary as proof that he was all the more masterful, for only great masters like him can impose respect and control the race so powerfully, that nothing can indeed happen unless he gives permission. And gone, too, are all those other days, still relatively few, when Big Mig just could not win, and which, in the end, were the ones that touched us the most; because if winning conquered his rivals, losing, specially when done with the chivalry and simplicity with which he did it, conquered our hearts

The extraterrestrial has now sailed off to his home and, with that, entered history forever, but not without making it very clear, by losing the battle for his eventual extra season against his family, that he too has a human side. And I think that it is precisely because of that, because of the very fact that his having lost in a few of the times when he had set himself to win makes all those other innumerable and unforgettable victories all the more meritful, that I, like so many others, could not repress a soft inaudible weep when the news of his retirement were made formal. Truly, he has left us with the best possible dessert he could have given us, the Olympic Gold Medal, and his outwordly cycling curriculum will forever remain intact. But Big Mig, in addition to being a extraterrestrial, became eventually a friend as well. And, as a famous old Spanish song puts it, ``when a friend leaves, something just dies inside our soul.``

Indurain, then, is dead. Long live Indurain.

Greehamdo Moorgham 1997