THE great Tour de France cycle race has only just finished - but already Swiss hero Tony Rominger is looking forward to next year's event. For the durable star is being tipped as the man who can end Spanish rider Miguel Indurain's domination of one of sport's toughest challenges. Indurain claimed a hat-trick of Tour victories when the race finished on the streets of Paris last Sunday, ending a three-week tour de force in which only one man - Rominger - was able to stand up to him. The brave Swiss, a member of the Clas team, finished runner-up after highly rated Italians Gianni Bugno and Claudio Chiappucci failed to mount a serious challenge. He was blighted by bad luck early on, losing two teammates before the early team time trial, and later puncturing in both major individual time trials. Yet he triumphed in three of the 20 stages, which included the remarkable feat of winning two successive mountain stages. Those victories in the Alps and other outstanding performances in the Pyrenees helped Rominger claim the prestigious pink polka dot King of the Mountains jersey. But it was in the penultimate stage - a 48-kilometre individual time trial from Bretigny Sur Orge to Montlhery, just outside of Paris - that the Swiss may have gained the most important psychological edge before next year's race. Indurain had won seven successive Tour de France time trials stretching back to 1990 - but on this occasion he was forced to settle for second as Rominger posted a stunning victory by 42 seconds. The victory margin would have been even greater had the Swiss not lost vital seconds after suffering a puncture. It was a success that proved the great Spaniard could be beaten in traditionally his strongest discipline. A delighted Rominger, told he had just completed the third fastest Tour de France time trial ever, said: ''I was flat out the whole way. I got into a rhythm and then I followed it. I wouldn't have changed anything even if I had heard Indurain was ahead at the intermediate points. ''It was great to beat Indurain because I thought he was invincible. But it doesn't prove anything. He's still the best.'' A gracious Indurain acknowledged: ''It was a great performance. He was stronger than me. I accept the defeat.'' The Tour began with a week of flat stages which saw a string of mass finishes favouring the sprinters. But Rominger, twice a winner of the Tour of Spain, came into his own when the race headed into the Alps. He struck first on the 10th stage, a 204-kilometre journey from Villars-de-Lans to Serre-Chevalier featuring three long, gruelling climbs. His great Spanish rival came in third with the rest of the field strung out across the French countryside. Far from being exhausted by his effort, the Swiss rider pulled off a remarkable mountain double the following day on the 180-kilometre 11th stage from Serre-Chevalier to Isola 2000. Rominger raced away from a group of seven riders in the last kilometre of the daunting climb to the finish, holding off a concerted challenge from Indurain for the stage victory. ''I'm particularly happy to win this stage because it's the best of the Tour, said Rominger. ''So far, it's going well.'' And he predicted: ''If I ride well in the Pyrenees, I should end up on the podium.'' That prediction proved correct. Rominger finished second, nearly five minutes behind Indurain overall, and with the Spaniard clearly aware of the threat the Swiss will pose next year.