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Cyclingnews Letters special - December 12, 2003
After a week abroad, yesterday morning I opened the digital newspapers. I wanted to know all kind of news about cycling that could have happened during those days. But in the first website I tried I found something that surprised me really sadly. I could not believe what I was reading: “Chava Jiménez ha muerto”.
Jiménez was totally different, Jiménez was an incredible rider, was the best climber, the showman, the one who could do his best one day and his worst the next. He was the one that, while Indurain and Olano were getting the best winnings, could meet more supporters and autograph hunters around him. He was the one that could keep people awake during September afternoons. He was not Indurain, he was not Armstrong, nor Ullrich, he was not a perfectly defined machine, he was an artist on the road, totally unpredictable. When he started a race nobody knew if Jiménez was okay or not, if he could win or not, even, if he would finish or not. In cycling nowadays, when everything can be predicted from the beginning, when the director always decides what his rider can or not do, when nobody wants to spend more energy than necessary because of the following days, when instead of enjoying victories most of them prefer to go as fast as possible till the last line thinking about the seconds they have to get... in this cycling, he has been the last exception. He reminded people of the genial Delgado, or Bahamontes, because he was one of the authentic climbers, the ones that faced the steepest hills with strange easiness, the ones that only had one environment: mountains, and that raced thinking of what people wanted to see, instead of what was better for his record or for his sponsors.
He did not want to win a Grand Tour, he did not like to suffer in ITT, he made his directors crazy, he liked to go out, he always did whatever he wanted, and what he liked was winning, he liked to feel the warmth of all the Spanish people, he liked to appear in newspapers, he liked to say what he was really thinking. He was arrogant, sometimes cocky, but he accepted his defeats and always faced the consequences, and because of that character, he was hated or loved, there was no opinion in between. He was the one that said in the winter that he would be the first winner on Angliru and he did it that September.
He rode for his fans. I am sure that if he had been born in Belgium he would have got Roubaix or Flanders, if he had been born in Italy he would have got San Remo or Morirolo, or if he had been born in France he would have got Le Tour. With his physical talents he could win wherever, but he put it all where people wanted, and here, in Spain, we want cyclists to win on the tops, where we really enjoy cycling, and he did. Probably because of that Chava could not be understood abroad. It could be difficult to understand what Chava has meant to Spanish cycling. My final target was also that, all of you, try to imagine the perfect rider for your countries, the one that in your region would have the most supporters, the one that wins where you want and how you want, so, that was Chava in Spain.
When he could not ride because of depression in 2002 everybody missed him on the roads. He could not be again a rider, but now he had to climb the hardest hill, he had to fight for his life. He was now climbing that but a heart attack has finished the battle. He will be in the mind of his fans forever.
My deepest sympathy to his family, wife and friends.
Daniel Hernández Sanz
Never a good time
I read with great sadness José María Jiménez's obituary today. I knew he had been seeking treatment for depression and had thought I read that he was doing better and even planning to return to cycling soon, but then to die suddenly from a heart-attack so young... If possible, would you please post a link to which we may send our condolences, so that his friends and family may know that even people thousands of miles away from Spain were inspired by his riding, and touched by his personal story, and saddened by his sudden death. There is never a good time to lose a loved one, but so close Christmas... I think this time of year it must be doubly hard, my heart goes out to his family.
With deepest sympathy and respect,
Gone but not forgotten
José María Jiménez will be sorely missed that is for certain. After watching the 1998 Vuelta I suddenly had faith in the grand Tours again, just because of one little climber from Spain. He attacked, attacked and attacked in the last 5 kilometers of all the stages he won in this race he made me feel like cycling was real again and that races could be won with heart and soul, he made everyone in that race realize who was in charge in the mountains, as a loyal lieutenant to Olano he was second to none.
Goodbye "El Chaba" your spirit will not be forgotten.
Leaves a huge hole
Just like that, el Chaba is gone.
For a cycling fan, the public life a racer is too short. The few years that we can see them racing on the television is never enough, it's over so quickly. But to lose an entire life so quickly, without any expectation, leaves a huge hole. He was such a powerful racer, a racer who would commit to a race with his entire capability, a racer that you could only watch in awe once he went up the steeply sloped road. The peloton speaks of climbers who ride with the wings of angels, here's hoping that José is now racing with them.
Style and panache
I would like to express my profound sadness at the death of José María Jiménez.
El Chaba was a rider who rode with great style and panache. He was one of the
greatest climbers of his generation and I had watched his struggle with depression
over the past two seasons, hoping he would conquer it and come back to show
his class once again. Unfortunately life has taken another turn and now we are
left to once again mourn the untimely death of a great rider. Thank you El Chaba
for the times you let us feel the beauty of our sport, you are now truly an
"angel of the mountains", and I hope somewhere you are riding the mountains
with a light heart.
Perdido pero no olvidado.
[Very roughly translated: "gone but not forgotten" - Ed]
To the memory of the man who climbed faster than his bicycle, in the old style and always generous to bring us a glorious spectacle no matter what would happen tomorrow. You still inspire us on the roads and we will climb pointing to Heaven, in your honour.
José María Jiménez will certainly be missed. In the 1998 Vuelta a España José María put on one of the most dominant climbing displays in modern cycling, seemingly winning mountaintop finishes at will... no one could touch him once he made his move. He almost stole the overall victory from Olano, his team leader. Similar to Pantani in his physical strengths on the bike and his emotional weaknesses off the bike, José's sad departure will be mourned by thousands of cycling fans around the globe.
To all, family friends and loved ones. My thoughts are with you at this time of tragic loss. The cycling world will always remember ....
May José rest in peace.
Descanse en paz uno de las grandes corredores que nos ha dado el ciclismo español. Es una pena que una persona tan joven deje este mundo tan pronto. No es momento de destapar las miserias que pudo tener Jiménez como persona, mas bien sus errores deberían valer para que los nuevos jóvenes que se aventuran en este durísimo deporte no cometan los mismos errores. Mientras tanto recordemos al Chaba como ese ciclista que tuvo, en ocasiones la virtud de hacernos soñar con gestas épicas del ciclismo.
[Rest in peace one of the great rider that Spanish cycling has given us. It is a great shame that such a young person should leave this world so suddenly. This is not the moment to uncover the miseries that could have affected Jiménez as person, but his problems should be recorded so that young people that venture in this very hard sport do not make the same mistakes. In the meantime we recall el Chaba as a rider who, from time to time, had the ability to make us dream with his epic exploits.]
Miguel Angel Aurrecoechea
We went camping together one time. He loved to make smores. I'm going to miss him greatly.
An Attacking rider
I'm a cycling fan and more than that a fan of Chava. I followed his career from 1995 and always liked his way of cycling and attacking. It's a great loss for cycling but especially for his family and friends.
Why must the good always die first?
Frank De Roeck
"Not my day"
I can barely believe the sad news of the death of José María Jiminez. I always loved his style and unpredictable talent and was surprised when his problems started a few years ago. As a cycling fan you usually only see the great moments on TV race coverage and only the brief focus on those having a bad day or unable to hold the pace.
Everyone has a bad day on the bike in a stage race. You even get bad patches within a stage or a one day race. For me this conclusion to the life of one of my favourite riders seems in such contradiction to the day I saw him for real in the Vuelta in the final 4kms of the Alto de Aitana wearing the KOM jersey. That day he had cracked on the climb but had won, I believe, three mountain stages already to get that jersey.
Angel Casero had pulled out all the stops that day and had dropped Sevilla. I had the luck to be stood on the mountainside next to Casero's wife and child and some other of her family friends. As José María rode past in a group, he looked over to her and appeared to see her quite clearly. He gave a little smile and a raise of the eyes as if to say, 'this is not my day' and carried on plodding up to the finish. Casero's wife gave me her Vuelta day pass - it was quite a day for me.
I cannot forget that face though and can only think about its look of honesty and kindness - even on a bad day. After that Vuelta it seemed even harder to understand how he became ill the following year and now it is impossible to understand the sadness which his friends and family must feel today. My thoughts are with them and I will never forget that face of José María Jiminez.
Mark A Hill
Rest in peace.
Riding Chaba's home roads
About 3 years ago, I was lucky enough to spend 4 weeks in Avila, Spain – with my road bike of course.
I didn’t know it before I went, but it was only about 15 miles to the south and on the other side of a mountain pass from the village of El Barraco, the home of El Chaba and of Carlos Sastre (I believe he is married to José María’s sister).
In November and December, this area has got to be one of the coldest places on planet Earth, especially when you’ve only got lycra with you.
Nevertheless, I went out on my bike nearly every lunchtime as it was too good an opportunity to miss.
When the locals told me about El Barraco and its significance of being home to two of Spain great cyclists, I had to meet the challenge of riding over the pass and down the other side to the little known village. I’m not the slimmest of riders, so it really was a challenge!
There were two things I could not get out of my mind:
1) No wonder Spain produces great climbers
2) If I had to go out training in those temperatures every day in the winter, I’d be bloody depressed too.
It was such a shame that you suffered because when you were on form, you were one of the most exciting climbers in the peloton.
Rest in Peace Chaba.
I just wish to express my sincere condolences for the premature death of José María Jiménez. I am deeply shocked at the loss of this great talent.
I watched José María's development with interest over the years and I was very sad to hear about his recent medical problems and I had hoped that perhaps, in time, he would return to compete in our sport. I used to marvel at his ability to climb with the greats like Pantani and it was this great ability that helped Spanish cycling to dominate the sport in the 1990's.
Now this will never happen and I think our sport - which has had its fair share of tragedies in recent years - has now suffered another terrible blow.
To his family, I wish to extend my deepest sympathies.
José María, you will never be forgotten.
José-María Jiménez is dead and a great rider and a hero of mine is no longer among us. His attitude in races much appealed to me. For him no racing-situation, however hopeless it looked and how far behind he was, stopped him from attacking and making a mark on the race. This ability of going from weak legs and hanging head to a winning attack fascinated me and inspired me in my personal life as well as my racing style. And how truly sad it is to learn that he was not granted the time on earth to make a comeback from the dark times he recently was experiencing.
You and your achievements will remain in my memory.
Jiménez in Colorado
In 1995 I had the good fortune to see José-María Jiménez and a handful of his teammates race right here in Colorado. Getting in some high altitude training for the upcoming Worlds in Colombia, Banesto showed up for the local Colorado Classic stage race. And yes, both the present 5-time TdF winner, Indurain, and the future 5-timer, Armstrong, were competing.
Due to illness, Armstrong didn't finish the race. Indurain, due to his humble nature I guess, didn't thrash the field as expected. He left that to his new 24 year old teammate, Jiménez. And what a sight it was.
As a local Cat 3 racer, until that point I didn't really have an appreciation for how strong the European professional ranks were. The lasting imprint on my mind from that day was the sight of Jiménez, literally flying up an 8% grade in the big ring on his way to the stage win. I'd never seen an exploit like that in person.
Since that day I had continued to follow his career as he went from Indurain's domestique in 95-96, to his assuming a leadership role within the team in later years. On TV, it always appeared that he was performing with the same panache as the day I saw him chew up the inclines in person. The victories didn't number very many, but with the style in which they were won, to me, he will always be one of the great ones.
A professional with class
Desde San José, Costa Rica envio un saludo muy coordial. Lamento la notica del Chaba Jiménez. En el siempre se vio un ciclista professional con clase. Un escalador nato quien hacia a los demas suffrir en la montaña. Haras falta Chaba....gracias por los buenos recuerdos...
I remember watching Lance climb and blow everyone off his wheel on Hautacam in the 2000 tour. I remember thinking that no one could keep up with this guy until I saw José María Jiménez hook up on Armstrong's wheel. I was thinking "who is this guy?", and after that stage he had taken a special place in my heart. I can't believe someone like "el chava" has left us, he will always be an inspiration to me.
He seemed like a rider that was going to really dominate the Tour circuits. Was waiting for him to put his stamp on the many big races. Watching him race was a awesome, he had that "aggressive" look on his face, like he wasn't afraid of who was sitting on his wheel. He'll be missed!
You were just fantastic. I'll never forget. Take care!
You've walked too long in this lonely lane
El Chaba was like cherry blossom. Elegant and ephemeral. When it dies, it never withers. It is carried away by a sudden gust of wind and just disappears. It chooses an abrupt death rather than clinging to life showing ugly, faded colors. Do you know Chaba, that the cherry blossoms are our national symbol?
I felt like being hit with a thunderbolt when I opened the web site of As Diario and saw the words "CHAVA JIMENEZ FALLECE". I grabbed my Spanish dictionary to confirm if my understanding of the word "fallecer" was correct. Sadly enough, I was not wrong. It means "pass away".
It was in 1998 when I firstly saw him before my eyes. I went to see the Vuelta a Espana and chased the peloton till the 10th stage. El Chaba wore the yellow jersey (it was before they change it to the golden jersey) and he was showing it off to fans and journalists. After the stage of Valencia, riders took a bus altogether for transferring to the airport but before it starts, he let in his fans inside and other riders were frowning. He didn't care, because he was really strong. He won 4 stages in total and was quite impressive in the mountains. Next time I saw him, he was climbing in the Courchevel with Pantani. He was riding ahead of Armstrong.
He was one of the most popular Spanish riders those days and even during the off-season, he was in the center of media attention. In winter, he went hunting as training being accompanied by journalists. During some festival, he joined a small scale bull fighting and impressed us with his bravery. He was really a star.
A few days later from his death, I was tidying up my bookcase. Since 1999, I have been checking the web site cyclingnews.com and the Spanish web sites everyday, and I have been sorting out all the printouts of articles in stacks of files. Then, I found a few printouts left on top of the shelf without being filed. I forgot to file them. I tried to put them in the file and froze. One of them was the interview of AS Diario of Jimenez at the end of December 2002 while he was suffering from depression. Can you believe this? It should be very difficult to try to find Jimenez-related articles among those huge piles of papers but this article came to me by itself as if it is asking me to remember Jimenez once again!
"- Por que qiere volver? (Why do you want to come back?)
JMJ : ".. Si quiero competir es sobre todo por los aficionados, porque me gustaria agradecerles todas las muestras de carino que me han brindado. No he parado de recibir llamadas, mensajes.. Mas de una carta me ha hecho lloar. La gente me pide que vuelva y yo debo compacerles." (If I want to compete, it is especially for the fans, since I wish to appreciate to all those who showed me affections. I keep on receiving calls and messages without stop. More than one postcard made me cry. People ask me to come back and I have to gratify them."
Now, I can't read it without tears.
Nagako "Nana" Furusawa
Chava & Armstrong
I was shocked and deeply saddened to here of the death of José María Jiménez. My abiding memory of him was of his comments after a mountain stage in the 1998 Vuelta, when he stated that he had tried to position and to signal to Lance Armstrong to win the stage, they were in a fairly small group and he had probably given up his own opportunity to win that day, because he wanted Lance to win because of what he had gone through in the preceding year's (cancer). I think that showed the true character of the man.
Best climber of the nineties
You were simply the best climber of the nineties together with Marco Pantani.
I regret the death of one of the best Spanish climbers. After Bahamontes was he the second best Spanish climber.
Chaba we will miss you.
Samuel and David
Con el respeto mas grande como lo grande que el Chava era sobre sus pedales mis condolecias para su Familia y amigos.
Siempre te recordaremos Chava.
[With the greatest respect for the great Chava, my condolences to his family and friends.
We will always remember Chava.]
I could not believe the news
On Tuesday I met at railway station of the city of Moscow, an old friend, one of the ibanesto.com racers - Denis Menshov. He had flown in from Spain and I have picked him up at the airport. On the road we spoke on different themes and I have asked him: in what team will be Jiménez the next year? Denis has answered, that Jiménez has died yesterday. I could not believe it. The bicycle world will always remember El Chava. His victories impressed everyone, even his rivals.
How many times when we are out training or just riding do we pretend that are a certain rider? I myself like to imagine myself as a particular rider in certain training situations. Often times while climbing I would "become" Jose Maria Jimenez dropping the likes of Pantani, Armstrong, etc. I will miss seeing his skills in action but I will continue to "become" Jimenez when the road turns up. You will be missed but not forgotten!
A an elegant climber with a style all of his own. Despite all of the things that happen in the sport of cycling the true fans know the sport from the will and talent of the people with it. José María Jiménez was one of those people. Reading the letters on this page I think about how folks all over the world think about this sport all day long at their jobs and at class. What better thing could someone contribute to than such an epic mountain. Chava will be missed and never forgotten especially not by his fans.
Thank you for the ride.
I had the good fortune to spend a couple of weeks in Spain during the Vuelta in 2001. Every day when we would check the results the winner was Jose Maria Jimenez - if it were a mountain top finish. So we were expecting great things from him when we were standing on the roadside of the Aitana. First to come by was Claus Moller, and then a few others: Heras; Simoni; Sevilla; and then one group after another. Finally Jimenez went by not looking too comfortable in the grupetto.
It is somehow fitting that the last grand tour contested by Jimenez was so typical of his racing. Jimenez raced with so much passion, and I know that I am not alone in stating that it is his type of riding that is sorely missed in today's professional peloton. After getting home from the Vuelta and going through photographs, something stood out. I took a number of photographs of the riders preparing to start on a couple of stages. Each time in the staging area there seemed to be a circle of 6-10 riders from various teams laughing and having a great time before the day's work. At the center of each of these groups was Jose Maria Jimenez. It was very clear that El Chaba was very popular with his fellow racers. After seeing these photographs, I remember seeing a magazine with a photo the peloton passing through the countryside. A rather busty young woman was riding a horse alongside the racers. Jimenez was gesturing with his hand held to his chest in a "show of support" Every racer around Jimenez was laughing. This is the image of Jimenez that I will always remember alongside his mountaintop victories. I know that he will be sorely missed by family, friends, fans and fellow professionals alike.
You were the reason why we kept following cycling after Indurain. We miss you so much.
Tanja, Goran, Mira
A poem for Chaba
I'm not able to express my feelings about Chaba with a letter, but I think I can do so with this poem that I wrote for and about Chaba.
King Of The Mountains
Great, greater, the greatest
Were you longing for success?
Gracious gift of god
And I don’t know why
So very sad to hear last week of El Chaba's fate. I've read about him, but really can't remember a lot of his style other than in reading about it for some years. I want to remember him more now, so I rushed out and bought a copy of the 1998 Vuelta. I want to preserve more of the moments. My sympathy goes out to his family, friends, and fans.
His passion for cycling and riding style were a big inspiration for me. José María Jiménez was for me the best climber of his generation. His mountain attacks were unforgettable.
Chaba, you and your victories will remain in our memory. We will miss you.
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