the excicist Federico Martin Bahamontes‘The Eagle of Toledo’who passed away this Tuesday at the age of 95, will be remembered, in addition to his climbing facetAs the first Spaniard to register his name as the winner of the Tour de Francein 1959.
Bahamontes, born in the small Toledo town of Santo Domingo Caudilla (July 9, 1928), about 30 kilometers from the capital, whose real name was Alejandro, although a brother of his father insisted that he be called Federicowas active between 1954 and 1965, a stage in which he achieved a total of 74 victories, the most important being the Tour de France (1959).
A triumph that paved the way for Luis Ocana (1973), Peter Delgado (1988), Miguel Indurain (from 1991 to 1995), Oscar Pereiro (2006), Alberto counter (2007 and 2009) and Carlos Tailor (2008), the other winners of the gala round.
His first job was apprentice in a carpentry workshopbut soon he went to another bicycle workshop, run by his old local idol Moisés Alonso, work that he combined as a delivery man for several local merchants.
Bahamontes supplemented the family income by dedicating himself to the black market, for which he always used his bike and which, together with the successive hauling of orders through the steep streets of Toledo, was the prelude to his developing innate climbing skills.
He began his career as an amateur at the age of 19, almost by chanceand achieved his first victory with a touring bike that he had bought for 30 duros (150 pesetas, less than one euro).
‘Lettuce‘, a nickname inherited from his grandfather, which suited him because of his work in a fruit shop -‘between cabbage and cabbage, lettuce’, when cabbage is translated into French (colline) mountain pass-, he had to wait two years (1949) to become a name by triumphing in the ‘Luis Guijarro’ Trophy and in the Vuelta a Ávila.
Bahamontes began to multiply his successes and in 1952 he won the Madrid-Toledo raceout of competition, due to problems with his independent cycling license, and he triumphed again in the Vuelta a Albacete, while the following year he dominated the Vuelta a Málaga from start to finish, and won the Castilla championship.
That 1953 he participated for the first time in the Volta a Catalunya to take the step to professionalism the following year. He settled in Barcelona and signed for Santiago Mostajo’s team, to achieve the first international podium on the climb to Mont Agel, in Monaco.
Already ‘signed’ by the national selector, Julian Berrenderoachieved his first successes in the high French peaks in his first presence in the Tour (1954), becoming ‘king’ of the mountain, which he repeated five more times (1958, 1959, 1962, 1963 and 1964).
A year later it premiered in the Vuelta a Españabut he was unable to participate in the Tour due to illness, although he took his revenge the following year when he began to forge the aura of a luxury climber, which he confirmed with a final fourth place in the individual overall.
In 1957, he finished second in the Tour of Spain. and, already under the nickname of ‘El Águila de Toledo’ with which the newspaper ‘L’Equipe’ called him, he withdrew in the ninth stage of the Tour, although in the following edition he removed the thorn by winning the mountain and finish sixth overall.
The 1959 Tour
Was in 1959 when, led by Fausto Coppi, who convinced him to sign for his team, ‘Tricofilina’, he achieved his greatest success: the Tour.
In that edition, despite not being a favourite, he sealed the first national victory in France after a long break in the Pyrenees and a time trial in Puy de Dome.
The post-Tour campaign could not have been worse, since he fractured his femur in the Vuelta a Levante and in the Vuelta a España he withdrew two stages from the conclusion, in protest at the exclusion of his great gregarious Julio San Emeterio.
After a bad 1961, with a withdrawal in the Giro, he did not appear in the Tour, where he did appear in 1962, the year in which the national teams gave way to commercial squads.
Bahamontes signed for the French team Margnat-Paloma and in a Tour that he dominated Jacques Anquetil he put on the mountain jersey again, won a stage and finished fourth overall.
The following year, Bahamontes was relegated by Anquetil to second place in the Tour and in 1964 Bahamontes finished third.behind Anquetil and Raymond Poulidor, in the edition in which he won his sixth and last mountain title, and won two stages.
In his last campaign as a professional, 1965, he finished tenth in the national round and was unable to finish the gala round: in the mountain stage between Dax and Bagnères-de-Bigorre he came penultimate, more than 50 minutes behind Julio Jiménez, and abandoned the next day.
The last of his 74 victories, before hanging up the bike, was in the Climbing of Montjuic (Barcelona)on October 12.
Honors and tributes
During his 12 seasons as a professional, apart from opening the Spanish box on the Tour (1959), he was on the podium on two other occasions (second in 1963 and third the following year) and once at the Tour of Spain (second in 1957)and eleven stage wins in the grand tours: seven in the Tour, three in the Vuelta and one in the Giro.
National champion on the road in 1958in his best facet, that of a climber, won twice in the Vuelta, once in the Giro and six in the Tour.
Already retired – he only rode a bicycle in public again in a funeral tribute to Luis Ocaña from Cuenca, winner of the 1973 Tour who died in 1994 – Federico focused on managing his bicycle and moped shop in Toledo from 1966 until it closed in 2004. , and became the organizer of the Tour of Toledo for 50 years, until 2015.
Federico Martin Bahamontes, adoptive son of Toledohas received many other recognitions, such as a commemorative plaque given to him by the then French ambassador on behalf of the French Republic and the election as the best athlete of the 20th century from Castilla-La Mancha.
In 2013, coinciding with the first centenary of the Tour, he received a tribute from the organization in which he was officially named the best climber in the history of said competition.
Since May 6, 2018, Bahamontes has a sculpture on Paseo del Miradero, at the end of the Cuesta de las Armas in Toledoin his characteristic position of a great climber with the bike with which he won the Tour.