The first surprise with Bahamontes is that his name was not Federico, but Alejandro. Federico was an uncle of his who advocated that they name him after him, but the family preferred Alejandro and as such he came out Christianized as a pile. Only the uncle did not give up, he decided to call him Fede and little by little the whole family gave in and stayed with Fede. I’m glad that stubborn man eventually got the point out of him. I can’t imagine Fede calling himself something else. Although that would cause him not a few problems in paperwork and records over the years.
-How Alejandro Martín Bahamontes? That will be his brother…
But he didn’t have brothers, only sisters, the four of them accomplices with him in his desire to be a cyclist. The father did not want fantasies, and he had seen the dog’s face of life: a road laborer (Fede was born in the shed on the side of the road), a reaper, a day laborer in the collection, a well-to-do cigar keeper, which almost made him it costs to be shot by the militiamen. Fede since he was a kid was dedicated to searching; one summer, vigorously picking Stakhanovist chopped fruit, he managed to buy a shabby bicycle piece by piece. His door to another life.
He had a friend-buddy, another wounded bike, who had a treasure: a telephone. The sister was a movie ticket office and they sneaked in at hours when the phone was not in use for reservations and dedicated themselves to calling towns in Toledo or neighboring provinces to ask if there were races and sign up. This is how they lived an active and hard life: bike trip, race, prize (a cheese, a ham, oranges, wine, sometimes a few bitches), return with dinner in the ditch and night in the clearing, eaten by mosquitoes, but happy. .
The arc was opening to bordering provinces with the bordering ones. Always the same hobby, the same fight, the same camaraderie of two-wheeled centaurs. One day, returning from Burgos, they stopped in Somosierra, at the door of the Hotel Mora, where they delivered two loaves of bread and four oranges. They were about 100 kilometers from Madrid, 170 from Toledo, and they decided that by pressing down they would get home to sleep. But lo and behold, entering Madrid they had forgotten two tubulars upstairs. For them that was an unaffordable economic loss, so they returned, already at night, for them, who were happily still there, like abandoned puppies.
His father’s opposition ceased when he ran the Vuelta a Ávila, in which he was second due to a fatal breakdown, but won the mountain. In one week he earned more than double what his father earned in a whole summer of toil.
Filming in winter around Toledo, he was discovered by a curious guy, Evarist Murtra, who sold Gladolux blinds throughout Spain. Murtra had a vocation as a patron, he liked to support young promises in any activity. Among his sponsored children were Carlos Lapetra and Juan Beca Belmonte. He followed Bahamontes for kilometers, admiring his pace, especially on the climbs, until he overtook him and opened up some fascinating possibilities: Barcelona, a serious team, shooting on the track, comprehensive training.
The rest came rolling. Those ascents pushing carts of fruit up the homicidal slopes of Toledo, those journeys through the plateau in search of a meager prize and a watermelon stolen from the ditch to regain strength, that exercise in fanatical determination, which included absolute sexual abstinence in summer and practice only twice a month in winter.
From there and from his natural condition a prodigious cyclist emerged, the best climber the world has ever known. Great, eccentric, vedette, rebellious… maybe he could do more. Well, he really was able to do more. But for those of us who lived through his victory in the 1959 Tour and his second, third and fourth places, plus his six victories in the Mountain Grand Prix, it was more than enough.
Thank you, Fede, for those unforgettable summers.
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