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The Eagle of Toledo: The Life and Times of Federico Bahamontes the Tour`s Greatest Climber

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Federico Bahamontes  the Eagle of Toledo  is rated by many as the greatest climber in cycling`s history. The first Spaniard to win the Tour de France and a six-time champion of the race`s gruelling King of the Mountains- classification  he became a national hero in a Spain struggling to rebuild after the atrocities and divisions of the Civil War.   Born in Toledo in 1928  Bahamontes saw his family devastated and forced to flee to Madrid when Nationalist rebels rose up against the elected government in 1936. Impoverished and starving  he took to cycling as a means of delivering black market produce  before realising that sport offered an escape from the streets. After an impressive amateur career  he made his Tour de France debut in 1954 and won the mountains competition on his first attempt. His success  and a charismatic but temperamental racing style  brought him fame at home and abroad. But it was also appropriated by the dictatorial regime of General Franco.   Fifty years on  however  he remains a Spanish cycling hero. An eccentric of phenomenal willpower  he is one of the few key personalities from Spain`s lost generations to remain alive and as Alasdair Fotheringham discovered when interviewing him for this fascinating biography more than willing to tell the tale.  Alasdair Fotheringham  A freelance journalist based in Spain who covered seventeen Tours de France and fifteen Tours of Spain  as well as numerous other major races. He first interviewed Bahamontes in 1993. Currently the cycling correspondent for the Independent  and the Spanish correspondent for the Independent on Sunday  he has also written for leading British cycling publications Cycling Weekly and Cycle Sport.
By: Alasdair Fotheringham