Eagle of Toledo, rated Tour's greatest-ever climber, visits race
Fifty-four years after he won the Tour de France, Sunday at Bagneres-de-Bigorre Spanish all-time climbing great Federico Bahamontes paid a visit to the race where he took Spain's first-ever victory in 1959 and won the King of the Mountains prize no less than six times.
A few days after France's top sprinter André Darrigade was at the race, on the Pyrenees it was Bahamontes turn to be paid homage. Fans will be pleased to hear that Baha', recently voted best-ever climber of the Tour by a L'Equipe panel and internet vote is still looking as fit as a fiddle at 85 despite being up since 4.30 to fly to Toulouse and the Tour and full of jokes, humour and energy.
He is due to play a big part in this afternoon's victory ceremonies. And ‘the Eagle of Toledo' had, as usual, strong personal opinions about the Tour to give to Cyclingnews as he wolfed down a couple of cakes and a coffee at the finish.
"The race isn't won for Sky yet," Bahamontes said - before looking at the TV screen, where events confirmed that it was indeed being a tumultuous stage for the British team. "Why do you think Froome was looking under his arm all the time on the climb yesterday? He was worried about the guys who were behind him! That was why they had to leave [key Basque rival and Spanish national team-mate] Jesus Loroño at home in 1959 when I won the Tour, so it would be more united.
"We might be friends off the bike, but on the bike it's like boxers, you've got to start thumping each other and not stop. Otherwise it would all be like it was fixed, wouldn't it?"
As for Froome's top rival, Bahamotnes says "I think that Colombian [Nairo Quintana] is going to give Froome a lot of grief all the way to the finish."
"Quintana's attack was the best for sure, although I'm not so sure about [Alberto] Contador [Saxo-Tinkoff]. Losing that much time on the first big mountain stage wasn't a good sign at all. I just hope he can move back up again into the action."
He was he said unsurprised, by that he was recently-voted best climber of the Tour, "given what I've achieved in this race. I won here in Bagneres-de-Bigorre twice, for example."
"In either case, I'm sorry to say this but the racing is far less spectacular than it used to be ... and that's a shame."
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