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Home FR Federico Bahamontes, winner of the 1959 Tour de France, has died

Federico Bahamontes, winner of the 1959 Tour de France, has died


The ‘Eagle of Toledo,’ one among biking’s biggest climbers and the primary Spaniard to win the Tour, died on Tuesday, aged 95.

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They are saying you always remember the right way to experience a bicycle. Federico Bahamontes put his away for good when he retired from the peloton in 1965. To keep up the legend he constructed and maintained with nice care, the Spaniard swore he’d solely ridden as soon as after that. It was a tragic day in Could 1994, for a last tribute to Luis Ocaña, winner of the Tour de France in 1973.

Bahamontes died on Tuesday, August 8 on the age of 95, Toledo mayor Carlos Velasquez introduced on social media. Born on July 9, 1928, in Val de Santo Domingo, Toledo province, he joins his compatriot Ocaña but in addition most of his rivals, buddies and enemies, of yesterday: Louison Bobet, Jacques Anquetil, Roger Rivière, Gastone Nencini, Charly Gaul, Raymond Poulidor…

Winner of the 1959 Tour de France, “the Eagle of Toledo” – as he was described in 1957 by Jacques Goddet, the race’s director – was the oldest residing Tour winner. He had loads of time to recount his nice victories and defeats with a profusion of particulars, anecdotes and excuses typical of champions from an period of which little was broadcast on tv.

“As a tribute to my Tour victory, I used to be the primary to experience my bike on the pitch of the Bernabeu [Real Madrid’s stadium],” he used to say, as if to remind us of his pioneering function. As the primary Spanish winner of the Tour, he impressed the Fuente and Ocaña brothers within the Nineteen Seventies and planted the seed that may later permit the triumphant Spain of Pedro Delgado, Miguel Indurain and Alberto Contador to flourish.

Ice cream earlier than the descent

If “Spanish climber” has lengthy appeared like a tautology, it is as a result of Bahamontes formed their repute. As a younger bike owner, he owed his qualities to the topography of his metropolis: perched on a hill above the Tagus, the capital of Castilla-La Mancha provided the best terrain to develop climbers. Apprenticed in a bicycle restore store, {the teenager} started to work his legs by working as a courier for Toledo’s shopkeepers. L’Equipe journalist Pierre Chany in contrast his suppleness to that of a “flamenco dancer” when he noticed him shimmy his lengthy, lean physique up the steep slopes of the Alps and Pyrenees.

Bahamontes additionally lived as much as his repute as a whimsical, even fanciful, rider. Throughout his first Tour de France in 1954, he took the lead on the summit of the Col de Romeyère within the Alps, and took the time to get pleasure from an ice cream whereas ready for his pursuers. Regardless of how typically he insisted that he had allowed himself this ice cream break whereas ready for mechanical help, the legend settled in.

The climber, who beloved excessive gradients, was chic at some point, and rapidly resigned the subsequent, missing curiosity within the general race, which calls for constant efforts. He gained the mountains classification six occasions, a report overwhelmed solely by Richard Virenque, who gained it a seventh time in 2004. The Spaniard’s delight took a success. He mentioned the Frenchman lacked the explosiveness and sophistication of the good mountain conquerers like himself: “He is no match for me. I hope he does not thoughts, but when he is a climber, I am Napoleon.”

With the assistance of Gaul and the divided French

Bahamontes’s best hour on the Tour de France got here in 1959. Having completed simply wanting the rostrum three years earlier, his hopes have been dashed in 1958 after the primary levels by a abdomen ache he feared was the onset of appendicitis. After recovering, he was nonetheless the one rider to remain in Gaul’s wheel within the Alps and win two levels.

Earlier than taking the beginning in Mulhouse on the finish of June 1959, Bahamontes, 31, made a vow: he was aiming for yellow, and nothing else. He and Gaul, the 2 greatest climbers of their era, revered one another, even when the Spaniard thought of the Luxembourger “a humorous man who watched {couples} on the lodge via the keyhole”. Gaul fell behind within the general standings of the 1959 Tour, however proved a beneficial breakaway companion on the 17th stage between Saint-Etienne and Grenoble. Gaul gained the stage, Bahamontes took the yellow jersey.

Within the days that adopted, Bahamontes faltered underneath the specter of Henri Anglade. Happily for the Spaniard, the French huge photographs, Anquetil, Rivière and Bobet, most well-liked to favor a foreigner reasonably than see a “little rider” from the Centre-Midi regional crew triumph of their place.

A museum to his glory

In 1963, the Eagle of Toledo was nonetheless flying excessive, however completed second behind an untouchable Anquetil within the last time trial. The next yr, he accomplished his assortment with the one lacking place on his checklist of honours: third.

After his profession, he turned the supervisor of a bicycle and moped retailer in Toledo, and loved displaying guests across the museum devoted to him. In 2009, he led Le Monde journalist Jean-Louis Aragon via the streets of his metropolis the place, he mentioned, “they deal with me like a king”.

Nostalgia had turn into a devoted buddy. In his recollections, the solar burned his physique, his fingers have been positioned on the high of the handlebars, so he climbed the Aubisque, the Télégraphe or the Izoard repeatedly, alone within the lead after all. “I relive these moments day by day,” he confessed. “I nonetheless get such a thrill out of all of it, and following right this moment’s races, seeing the locations I have been, I get goosebumps and I am joyful.” Right now, Spain is much less so.

Alexandre Pedro

Translation of an unique article printed in French on lemonde.fr; the writer could solely be chargeable for the French model.

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