Federico Bahamontes, Eagle of Toledo, best climber in Tour history, dies at 95.
08 August 2023, by Mark van der Linden
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This morning we received the sad news that Federico Bahamontes has passed away at the age of 95. Until his death, Bahamontes was the oldest living Tour de France winner.

Figure 1. Best results for BAHAMONTES Federico Martin, sorted by PCS points.

1959 Tour de FranceSPP1500
1963 Tour de FranceSPP2380
1964 Tour de FranceSPP3340
1956 Tour de FranceCD-C4300
1957 Vuelta a España2290
1956 Vuelta a España4220
1958 Tour de FranceCD-C8220
1963 Tour de Romandie2190
1958 Vuelta a EspañaCD-C6190
1959 Tour de Suisse3160
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Federico Martin Bahamontes grew up in a very poor family. The family was so destitute that at times, they were forced to eat street cats that his loving mother served as "baby goats." When Federico, working as a fruit vendor on the black market, discovered his exceptional ability to ride a bicycle uphill and excelled as a cyclist in the mountains, he embraced his mother's surname, Bahamontes, which means something like "over the mountains." Federico Bahamontes soared over the mountains like the "Eagle of Toledo," escaping the depression that General Franco had plunged Spain into.

On his bike, in the mountains, Bahamontes danced along the path paved by legends like Santiago Mostajo Trigo and Bernardo Ruiz Navarrete before him. On the slopes of mythical mountains such as the Col d'Aubisque, Col du Tourmalet, and Col du Galibier, Bahamontes became the best climber of his generation. General classifications initially didn't concern him much. It was all about the mountains for him. When the Tour de France reached the legendary volcanic summit of the Puy de Dôme for the second time in 1959, the cycling world couldn't have wished for a better winner. 

With the lead he had already gained in the Pyrenees and the partnership he formed with another mountain powerhouse, Charly Gaul, it finally happened that year: Federico Bahamontes became the first Spanish winner of the Tour de France.

The fact that a Spaniard could win the Tour, and that he did so ahead of four (!) French riders, must have been a blow to the Tour organization and everything French. In the years that followed, everything was done to guide the French favourite Jacques Anquetil to Tour success. They succeeded, five times even... Federico Bahamontes stood on the final podium of a grand tour four times, winning one.

Federico Bahamontes didn't just win in the Tour. With his victory on July 9, 1958, in Luchon, he became the eighth cyclist in history to win a stage in all three grand tours.

Even more impressive were his performances in the mountain classifications. Federico Bahamontes won them all, although he had to share the honor in the 1956 Giro d'Italia with... Charly Gaul. In that race, two mountain prizes were awarded. One for the king of the Dolomites (Gaul) and one for the best climber in the Apennines (Bahamontes).

Figure 2. Riders with KOM classification victories in all Grand Tours

1 BAHAMONTES Federico Martin1629
2 HERRERA Luis Alberto1225

Only one rider managed to achieve winning the mountain jersey in all three Grand Tours after Bahamontes: Luis Alberto 'Lucho' Herrera.

In total, Federico Bahamontes won nine mountain classifications in grand tours. In the Tour de France, only Richard 'Lionheart' Virenque took the polka dot jersey home more times than the Spaniard (7 to 6). When the Tour de France celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2013, a select group of luminaries on behalf of l'Équipe chose Bahamontes over Virenque as the greatest climber in Tour history. With a total of nine mountain classification victories, Bahamontes equaled the legend of legends: Gino Bartali.

Figure 3. Riders with most KOM classification victories in Grand Tours

1 BARTALI Gino7201935-1948
2 BAHAMONTES Federico Martin1621954-1964
3 VAN IMPE Lucien2601971-1983
4 VIRENQUE Richard0701994-2004
5 JIMÉNEZ Julio0331963-1967
6 CHIAPPUCCI Claudio3201990-1993
7 HERRERA Luis Alberto1221985-1991
8 LAGUÍA José Luis0051981-1986
9 OLIVA Andrés2031975-1978
10 FUENTE José Manuel4011971-1974
11 MONCOUTIÉ David0042008-2011
12 COPPI Fausto2201948-1952
13 JIMÉNEZ José María0041997-2001
14 ROMINGER Tony0121993-1996
15 MERCKX Eddy1201968-1970
16 BORTOLOTTO Claudio3001979-1981
17 GEMINIANI Raphaël2101951-1957
18 RODRÍGUEZ Emilio0031946-1950
19 BERRENDERO Julián0121936-1945
20 BITOSSI Franco3001964-1966
21 JALABERT Laurent0211995-2002
22 KARMANY Antonio0031960-1962
23 GAUL Charly1201955-1959
24 SASTRE Carlos0112000-2008
25 BOUCHARD Geoffrey1012019-2021
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After his career, the Eagle of Toledo had a shop in his hometown where he sold bicycles and motorcycles. After the passing of Roger Walkowiak in 2017, he became the oldest living Tour de France winner. That honor now belongs to the Dutchman Jan Janssen, who won the Tour in 1968.

Figure 4. List of the oldest still living winners of the Tour de France.

#RiderAgeWon in
1 JANSSEN Jan83y + 81d1968
2 AIMAR Lucien82y + 102d1966
3 MERCKX Eddy78y + 52d1969,1970,1971,1972,1974
4 VAN IMPE Lucien76y + 292d1976
5 ZOETEMELK Joop76y + 248d1980

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