Thursday, December 29, 2011

Federico Bahamontes

Fedrico Bahamontes Wearing The Yellow Jersey.

Fedrico Bahamontes ,nicknamed the "The Eagle of Toledo", is a former Spanish professional road racing cyclist. He is most famous for his 1959 Tour de France race and winning the "King of the Mountains" classification in that race six times (1954, 1958, 1962, 1963 and 1964). He is considered one of the best climbers ever and was the first Spaniard to win the Tour de France.

Bahamontes started cycling in an effort to scratch out a living  after the brutal three years of the Spanish Civil war. He was from a poor family that like millions of others was devastated by the war. This is how he describes becoming a cyclist: "I became a cyclist at the age of 10 because I would have starved otherwise. I used to nab fruit off the lorries in the local market and sell that, and with the money I made I bought my first bike in order to sell more fruit faster. I'd ride around with up to  150 kilos of fruit and vegetables on the back of the bike, but all that extra weight, I think, helped me become a better mountain climber. Once I shed it all, I could fly." He describes his second race and first victory experience at age 17 as:
"I only had a lemon and a banana to eat all day, and I was so hungry I ate the lemon peel and all, but I still won. I'd done 60km that day selling stuff on the black market, but I attacked from the gun and that was that. It was the same as the Tour [in 1959]; they all reckoned I'd crack out there by myself. But nobody could catch me."

Federico quickly realised he could make more money racing his bike than he could selling stolen fruit. He traveled around spain to various races by catching rides on freight trains. He was winning races and making some money. Word of his race winning skill got around  Bahamontes was selected to ride the Tour de France for Spain in 1954.

Federico Bahamontes describes his race tactics as simply attacking. "I had only one tactic, and that was attack, attack and attack again," the Eagle admits. "From start to finish."

One of the most famous stories about Bahamontes racing was that he had once attacked on an Alpine mountain pass so that he could have time to stop and eat an ice cream at the top. He tells what really happened as: "One of my wheel spokes broke halfway up, so I attacked so the repairs could be carried out at the top without me losing time," he explains. "But the team car carrying the spares got stuck behind the main bunch, so I bought an ice cream to pass the time. After that I was known as the 'ice-cream rider' - I wish I'd never stopped!"
Federico Bahamontes during the 1954 Tour de France.

He was known as a rider with a terrible temper. Once he was insulted by a spectator during a race, Bahamontes promptly turned around and wielding a bike pump, chased after him for an hour. Another time when the Tour of Spain organizers re-admitted six riders who had pulled out exhausted as they could not handle the pace set by Bahamontes, he got so angry he quit  the race himself. 
Bahamontes at the top of the Col de Tourmalet during the 1954 Tour de France.

While a fantastic climber Bahamanotes must be described as a cautious descender who often put one foot down to make it around bends in the road. This most likely can be contributed to him once crashing during a descent as an amateur and landing in a cactus bush. Once he waited at the top of Col during the Tour de France for other riders to arrive so he wouldn't have to descend the mountain alone. 
Federico Bahamontoes

Bahamontes retired in 1965 to open a bicycle and motorcycle shop in Toledo, Spain. The town where he was born July 9, 1928.
Federico Bahamontes in his bicycle shop.

Federico Bahamontes during the 1956 Tour de France.

In 1950 Federico Bahamontes won the National Amatuer Road Race Championship of Spain. In 1958 he won both Spains National Time Trial Championship and the National Road Race Championship.
Bahamontes cheered on by fans.

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