José María Jiménez – Erratic and Tragic

José María Jiménez – Erratic and Tragic


Rider Retro: After trying on the life and profession of Alex ‘Mr. Magoo’ Zülle, our man in Spain, Alastair Hamilton, has now forged his eye on a Spanish icon; José María Jiménez. The Spanish climber was within the Pantani mould, and just like the Italian he got here to a tragic finish. Jiménez was a hero to many, but additionally his erratic using and life type alienated others. ‘El Chava’ was one of many final pure climbers; thrilling to observe, however finally tragic.

Jiménez in Vuelta yellow, because the leaders jersey was in these occasions

32 year-old, José María Jiménez, ‘El Chava’, died in a detox clinic in Madrid on December sixth, 2003. The bicycle owner from El Barraco in Ávila, smack in the course of Spain, hung up his bike two years earlier than as a consequence of his private issues. He triumphed within the Vuelta, however, regardless of his nice class and his ease of climbing the very best Cols, he by no means succeeded within the Tour de France, possibly that’s the reason he has been primarily forgotten outdoors the Iberian peninsula.

Vuelta’01 stage 11 to Estacio de Pal (Andorra)

Jiménez was an idol of Spanish biking, not like Miguel Indurain, Alberto Contador and even Alejandro Valverde, who’re all cherished by the Spanish followers, however extra like Marco Pantani in Italy. ‘El Chava’ was the final rider able to dividing followers between indignant defenders and relentless critics. Each on and off the bike, Jiménez had an erratic character that excited the followers when he made a daring assault within the mountains, but additionally would infuriate the spectators when he would collapse spectacularly and lose lots of time, seemingly with none concern.

His Banesto crew chief, Miguel Induráin, summed him up: “He was a rider within the previous type. When issues went nicely, they went very nicely. When issues didn’t go nicely, they didn’t go in any respect.”

The Banesto 1993 crew

Jiménez rode as a stagiaire on the finish of the 1992 season earlier than he turned skilled with the Banesto crew the following 12 months. He would solely journey with Banesto below crew supervisor, Eusebio Unzué, throughout his 10 12 months professional profession. Alongside him had been Tour de France champions Pedro Delgado and Miguel Induráin and the younger Jiménez was anticipated to comply with of their footsteps.

In yellow on stage 12 – 17km mountain TT

Jiménez was significantly profitable in la Vuelta a España, he received 9 levels in whole, the ultimate factors jersey in 2001 and the KOM in 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2001. Solely José Luis Laguía has received the mountains classification of the Vuelta extra usually, on 5 events.

Following his teammate Olano

Of his Vuelta appearances, 1998 was most likely his finest 12 months. Jiménez took the general lead by profitable stage 6.  After the stage 9 particular person time trial, he was over three minutes down on Banesto teammate Abraham Olano, however Jiménez fought again to win levels 10, 11 and 16 to take again the general lead with two levels to go. The issue was one other time trial and he misplaced by practically three minutes once more to Olano. Extra dangerous information as Kelme’s Fernando Escartín took sufficient time to leap over him into 2nd place.  Jiménez completed third total, and this was most likely his greatest probability of total victory in a Grand Tour, however his weak point in opposition to the clock would all the time be an issue.

Jiménez completed the Tour de France 4 occasions, however he by no means actually confirmed the identical sparkle as he did on his dwelling roads of Spain. Eighth total in 1997 was his finest closing end result, no stage wins, however completed within the ‘High 10’ 4 occasions. Within the 2000 Tour he was third on stage 10 and 2nd on stage 15 behind Marco Pantani to complete twenty third total, 52 minutes down on winner (or not winner) Lance Armstrong.

Jiménez and Olano on the Alpe D’Huez Tour’97

You’d suppose the Giro d’Italia would have suited the Spanish climber and after ending in twenty sixth place in his first Giro in 1995, he was Banesto crew chief in 1999 and took a advantageous 2nd place behind Marco Pantani on stage 8. After all there was the issue of the time trial in Ancona after which the mountain stage 14 to Borgo San Dalmazzo, received by Paolo Savoldelli, Jiménez misplaced over 20 minutes and dropped to thirty eighth place. In Milan he completed thirty third total, behind Ivan Gotti, after race chief, Marco Pantani, was disqualified for a excessive hematocrit degree earlier than stage 21. Jiménez by no means rode the Giro once more.

Marco Pantani handed Jiménez within the time trial, however the Spaniard sat on the pink jersey to the end

Jiménez additionally received the Spanish Nationwide Street Race Championships in 1997 and the general victories within the 2000 Volta a Catalunya, 1995 Colorado Basic, 2000 Classique des Alpes and within the Vuelta a La Rioja in 1994 and 1997. Plus wins within the Subida a Urkiola, two levels in Colorado, three levels in Catalunya, two levels in La Rioja, levels within the Dauphiné Libéré and the Vuelta a Asturias.

Jiménez on El Angliru

Jiménez will most likely be principally remembered for his win on the Angliru within the 1999 Vuelta a España. He would usually assault with out contemplating the results, however when ‘El Chava’ emerged from the fog on El Angliru in 1999, the parable of the Vuelta was created. The Angliru wanted a hero: Rain, wind, chilly, fog – all of the elements you want for an epic stage, however in addition they blinded the tv, obscuring the motion from the thousands and thousands of followers at dwelling. The headlights of the automobiles appeared and the determine of ‘El Chava’ danced forward of them.

On the assault within the Dauphine

The Russian rider, Pavel Tonkov, had escaped, however then abruptly, fluttering by the inhospitable situations, ‘El Chava’ appeared and beat him to the road. However the epic victory had all of the elements of a thriller novel – a black novel.

Following Jalabert on Vuelta’98 stage 3

There have been suspicions, not that the assassin was the butler with a candlestick within the library, however that Jiménez had held on to the automobiles, making the most of the fog, and the anonymity. There have been spectators who mentioned they noticed it and others by no means noticed something. Tonkov was indignant, though all of it got here to nothing, however there have been many rumours about what occurred. Jiménez caught Tonkov after his lengthy solo break and took the stage in a two-man dash. When Jiménez crossed the road, he didn’t have the power for a victory salute. It was the primary time within the historical past of l. a. Vuelta that the Angliru had been used.

Climbing El Angliru

The Angliru fable was born and that prevails over the circumstances of what could or could not have occurred within the fog. The summit had been toppled by Jiménez, somehow. He was a singular bicycle owner, however that every one led to 2003 when an embolism put an finish to a race of excesses with medication and alcohol. There was not a extra melancholic hero for such an insolent peak as El Angliru.

Vuelta’01 stage 20 – Alto de Abantos

Jiménez was compelled to hold up the bike within the winter of 2001, just a few months after getting his third KOM in a Vuelta through which he received three levels. The inevitable loss of life got here when in one in every of his final moments of lucidity, José María had determined to return to a clinic. Two years after shedding the battle with biking, he misplaced the battle with life.

José María Jiménez died on the age of 32. His loss of life got here when he was nonetheless in his youth, at an age when lots of the cyclists of his technology had been nonetheless hammering it on the roads. His loss of life didn’t shock any of those that knew the harmful drift which his life had taken and the self-destructive mentality that inspired it. “It was an inevitable loss of life,” mentioned Eusebio Unzué, his director at Banesto. “He had chosen this path. He didn’t look previous.”

Spanish TV documentary

His early loss of life makes a connection to 2 different icons of Spanish biking; José Manuel Fuente, one other beautiful climber, capable of put Eddy Merckx on his knees, died of liver issues, and Luis Ocaña, one other tragic character, who dedicated suicide at his farm close to Mont de Marsan in France. Chava was lazy, nonconformist and lacked the greatness that led Ocaña to win a Tour, nearly two, and Fuente to turn out to be the god of the anti Merckxists. Crew DS, José Miguel Echávarri: “He raised so many passions and lived so quick that it looks like a lie.”

Dauphine Libere’98 – Jiménez and De las Guevas

Greater than two thousand individuals attended the funeral of ‘El Chava’.  Jiménez by no means wished to be an enormous bicycle owner, he settled for exploiting his nice class, an innate facility to climb, to get in form with out effort, to do the minimal work that allowed him to proceed with a very good wage and with the recognition of the followers, particularly youngsters. That’s the reason ‘El Chava’ solely triumphed within the Vuelta and by no means tempted the journey of changing into immortal within the Tour.

Subsequent to 1996 Tour winner – Bjarne Riis

He was recognized all through the world as ‘El Chava’ why? Chabacano was the nickname of his household in El Barraco, though he all the time wrote it with ‘Chava’. Not the nicest of nicknames: Peculiar, vulgar, impolite or bad-mannered – take your decide.

Going solo within the Tour

His brother-in-law, Carlos Sastre, devoted his 2008 Tour de France win to José María.

José María and Carlos

# You may examine Alex Zülle HERE.

A dedication to ‘El Chava’

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