THE PRIMATE CATHEDRAL, THE REFUGE OF “THE EAGLE OF TOLEDO”

We asked Mr. Federico Martín Bahamontes for an opinion article last April, without knowing the dates of the homage paid to him in Toledo by the world of Spanish cycling on May 6. We have witnessed that he has had —at his 89—in recent months such a busy schedule as a rock and roll star on tour; with photo sessions, interviews on the radio and TV, institutional events… So, we proposed him to have a quiet conversation once the commitments passed. And we discovered that, in addition to cycling, the “Eagle of Toledo” has another passion; his love for Toledo’s Cathedral, where the yellow jersey that he gave to the Cathedral after his victory in the Tour de France of 1959 is preserved.

Here are some reflections of the first Spaniard who won the French race. Throughout his 19 years as a professional cyclist, he also holds 6 mountain jerseys of the prestigious French race, and another 200 victories in different national and international cycling events.

“Honestly, I do not remember the first time I visited Toledo’s Cathedral. But it must have been as a child since my parents came to Toledo in search of work when I was only 6 months old… Then, the war came and we had to move to Madrid with some relatives, where I started working at 11 years selling the firewood that I picked up in El Retiro. Finally, I ended up living with an aunt in Villarrubiales de Santiago because we were very poor and we had many needs…

…I did not come back to the Cathedral until we returned to Toledo after the war, where I continued working as a cowboy and then in a fruit shop… There, I began to ride a bicycle without gears with which I toured the villages to get some money selling bread, flour, chickpeas, lentils or whatever I could… At 17 years old, I won my first race with that bike because I was already trained with so many kilometers looking for black market…

…During my 20 years as a professional cyclist I have traveled a lot. I was in Rome with the Pope and in Paris with Charles De Gaulle, but whenever I got home I went to the Cathedral to pray and ask the Lord to give me strength to keep competing… Even though my whole life has been a struggle, I am very grateful …

…I remember with special affection the day of my wedding in Toledo’s Cathedral in 1956 because the Bishop married me… Also the day when I returned to Toledo with the yellow jersey of the Tour de France in 1959… That’s why I decided to donate the yellow jersey to the Primate Cathedral, in appreciation for all that it has given me in my life…”

 

– Federico Martín Bahamontes –

 Professional Cyclist