Federico Bahamontes during the 15th stage of the Tour de France, between Lunchon and Toulouse, in 1958. Federico Bahamontes, who has died aged 95, was the first Spaniard to win the Tour de France . Eccentric, driven and solitary, the “Eagle of Toledo” was widely regarded as the tour’s finest mountain climber of the postwar era, taking the King of the Mountains prize six times between 1954 and 1964, a record that was not equalled until the 1980s. He was also the first to win the Mountains prize in all three grand tours – France, Spain and Italy.
Bahamontes is celebrated for an episode on the Col de Romeyère in the Alps in his first tour in 1954: he was part of a four-rider break that led up the climb, with – so he recalled – 14 minutes’ advantage on the bunch, crossed the King of the Mountains line first, then pulled in and went straight to an ice-cream van; he was mobbed by the crowd as he tackled the cone.
He later explained that he had broken two spokes in his front wheel and was waiting for his team car to give him a spare wheel or a bike, but the vehicle was stuck way behind the peloton. With the ice-cream eaten, he went to a nearby stream, filled a bottle with water, and sprayed the bunch as they struggled over the summit, which earned him a fine from the race jury. Federico Bahamontes doing a victory lap in the […]