World cycling mourns the loss of one of its most memorable heroes. Federico Martín Bahamontes has passed away at the age of 95. A legend with capital letters, because his successes and achievements were not only the pride of a generation of Spaniards still paying the price of the civil war that Bahamontes himself endured as a child, but his figure inspired all the great cyclists who came later, who this man from Toledo as a mandatory reference. A person who dedicated his life to cycling and who, in addition to his many milestones, will also be remembered for an achievement that will forever remain in history: He was the first Spaniard to win the Tour de France in 1959.
For a Spain not used to flaunting their chest, this performance was an event. “Neither Franco nor the Pope were received like that,” Bahamontes recalled of the summer when a flood of people descended on Toledo to receive him. He was never modest because he knew what each of his deeds had cost him and once he told them, embellished with all sorts of details and jokesHe managed to attract the attention of listeners regardless of their age. Not only is he revered in his country, the cycling world will always cite him as perhaps the greatest cyclist of all time when the road gets steep. However, the Tour de France recognized him as the best mountaineer in its history. He has won the mountain classification at the Grande Boucle… six times! He also won the Giro (one) and the Vuelta (two).
But Fede’s legacy, as known to those who loved him even though his real name was Alejandro, extends well beyond his extensive tally, to which he has to add eleven wins in the big rounds, in addition to the Tour and his successes at the summits and numerous victories in races of all kinds against names such as Anquetil, Gaul, Bobet … What attracted him, especially to those who didn’t see him run, were the stories (“my people like it when I tell them war stories,” he said) he recounted with such enthusiasm. Like when he moved from Toledo to Asturias on his own bike to take part in a race, his quarrels with other national figures such as Loroño, his tricks in a much more suffered and different cycling sport, or the legend that has permeated the history of cycling has The day he (actually due to a breakdown) waited for his rivals at the top of La Romeyère and had an ice cream.
A foreign journalist who moved to Toledo to cover him is he Author of the nickname by which he was known around the world: “Eagle of Toledo”.. It was in honor of the two-headed bird in the city’s coat of arms, which is located very close to the Paseo del Miradero, where since 2018 (exactly where he wanted it) an impressive statue representing the slender figure of Bahamontes has been placed. on the pedals of his bike and in full ascent.
An obligatory place of pilgrimage for all cycling fans interested in this unique figure from a Spain that has always considered him a national hero. With him goes a piece of sporting history, but also Spain’s, although his deeds and stories remain in the memory of this country. Alejandro “Federico” Martín Bahamontes has passed away, but the adventures of the Águila de Toledo will live on forever. A hero from another time. An immortal legend.