- - Federico Bahamontes Dies at 95

Federico Bahamontes Dies at 95

Former Tour de France winner Federico Bahamontes has died at the age of 95. Bahamontes became the first Spaniard to win the Tour when he triumphed in 1959.

Nicknamed the Eagle of Toledo, he was regarded as one of the finest climbers in history and was the first rider to win the mountains jersey in all three Grand Tours.

Bahamontes won the Tour de France polka dot jersey six times between 1954 and 1964.

He memorably missed out on winning the Vuelta a Espana in 1957 after blowing a 16-minute lead to hand victory to his big rival Jesus Lorono. He also came close to a second Tour de France title in 1963.

Bahamontes was in yellow a few days out from Paris but only three seconds separated him from Jacques Anquetil, who was seeking his third successive Tour win.

Anquetil won a sprint against Bahamontes on Stage 17 and the bonus seconds took him into the lead and helped him secure the GC. Bahamontes finished in second place.

Bahamontes’ death was confirmed by Carlos Velazquez, the mayor of Toldeo.

“With deep regret, we mourn the loss of Federico Martin Bahamontes, the Eagle of Toledo, the benchmark of the sport that has brought the name of our city to the top,” wrote Velazquez on Twitter.

The first Spaniard to win the Tour de France is part of the history of the sport in our country, with more than 74 victories behind him. Adopted son of the city of Toledo, admired and loved, Fede has moved us with his extraordinary climbs. His bicycle shop, in our Plaza de la Magdalena, has been a place of pilgrimage for all fans. We will honor his memory with two days of official mourning, as a sign of pain and recognition of all Toledo. Thanks to him we all won the Tour. Our deepest condolences to your loved ones,” added Velazquez.

Bahmontes was born in 1928 in the central Spanish province of Toledo. That geography would earn him the nickname “The Eagle of Toledo” later in his career

Due to the Spanish civil war, Bahmontes’s family spent much of the mid-1930s fleeing from their hometown of Santo Domingo-Claudilla to Madrid and then, eventually, to the village of Villarubbia de Santiago.

In the wake of the war, the country was under food rationing orders. This led Bahamontes to buy his first bike at the age of eighteen in order to transport and sell food illegally between towns and villages.

Soon after, in July 1947, he entered his first bike race, finishing second.

Bahamontes spent the next half decade racing as an amateur, which allowed him to earn more than his black-market food trade.

In 1953, Bahamontes entered his first professional race, the Vuelta a Asturias. After winning the opening stage, Bahamontes finished the race in twenty-first place out of a field of sixty-nine racers

That same year, Bahamontes won the King of the Mountains classification in the Volta a Catalunya, which, as the Vuelta a España was not run between 1950 and 1955, was the country’s biggest race at the time.

He competed in his first Tour de France the following summer, initially declining an invite to the race on the grounds that he didn’t have any luggage. He won that year’s KOM classification and finished the race twenty-fifth overall

In 1959, Bahamontes won the Tour de France, becoming the race’s first-ever Spanish yellow jersey.

However, over his career, the Eagle of Toledo was best known for his climbing acumen. He won the Tour de France’s KOM jersey a total of six times (1954, ’58, ’59, ’62, ’63, and ’64), the Giro’s KOM in 1956, and Vuelta’s KOM in 1957, where he also finished second overall.

Following his retirement in 1965, Bahamontes returned to Toledo to run a bicycle shop.

In 2013, in celebration of the Tour’s hundredth anniversary, French newspaper L’Equipe named Bahamontes the greatest Tour de France climber of all time.


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