Two young Spanish journalists are putting together a documentary tracing the life of climbing great José María Jiménez as seen through the eyes of the people who knew him best, including his brother-in-law, Carlos Sastre, and his widow, Azucena.
Four times a winner of the mountains title at the Vuelta a España, Jiménez, universally known as ‘Chava’, retired from racing in 2001 and was treated for health and psychological problems. He died in December 2003 after suffering an embolism aged just 32.
Avila-based journalists Gonzalo Martín and Ángel Sánchez approached 2008 Tour winner Sastre with their idea last year. After Sastre agreed to cooperate with them, the two novice TV journalists have invested 7,000 euros of their own money in the project with the aim of giving an insider’s view of Jiménez’s often controversial life. "We didn’t want to stir things up, but simply to show how he tried to get back to being what he had been before," the pair told Spanish sports daily Marca.
The documentary follows Jiménez’s life chronologically via interviews with many who were close to the star of the Banesto team. Among those who have collaborated on the film are 1983 Tour de France runner-up Ángel Arroyo, who hails from El Barraco like Jiménez, and Víctor Sastre, father of Carlos and founder of the Ángel Arroyo cycling school in El Barraco in the early 1980s.
Jiménez and Carlos Sastre both started their cycling careers at that school in 1983, and remained extremely close during their professional careers. "I don’t know how Carlos managed to achieve so much success after the death of Chava because it’s still something he finds very hard to talk about," Víctor Sastre told Marca.
Having completed most of the interviews for the documentary, the next step for Martín and Sánchez is to agree usage of archive footage with Spain’s national broadcaster TVE. They are hoping that this issue can be resolved by the end of this month with a view to the documentary being broadcast during this year’s Vuelta in August/September.
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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