The Eagle of Toledo By Alasdair Fotheringham
Release date: 20th June, 2012
Publisher: Aurum Press
Our Price: £11.89
You Save: £5.1 (30%)
Of the 219 cyclists who set off on the 99th Tour de France this year, it's hard to imagine any boasting a personality to match that of the 1959 champion, and one of the great climbers of any era, Federico Bahamontes.
Arrogant, aloof, individualist and ferociously competitive, Bahamontes was nevertheless a Spanish sporting icon during General Franco's reign, his gung-ho approach to mountain climbing making him one of the sport's most popular characters.
Bahamontes was born in Toledo in 1928 and grew up in civil war-torn Spain. He developed his stamina for cycling by riding to collect food which he would then sell on the black market to feed his poverty stricken family.
Still renowned as the man who stopped at the top of Col de la Romeyere for an ice cream while leading the 1954 Tour de France, Bahamontes finished his career with one maillot jaune and six King of the Mountains titles.
But this was viewed as scant reward for a man rated by the legendary Eddy Merckx as, "one of the greatest cyclists ever". Alasdair Fotheringham's captivating book tells the tale of how Bahamontes made his way to the top of the cycling pantheon and offers several reasons why 'The Eagle of Toledo' was not able to make more of his considerable talents on two wheels.
Like so many sporting greats, Bahamontes' character was not without its failings and surrounding his victorious pursuit of the yellow jersey are tales of resignations, arguments and physical conflicts.
Indeed, Bahamontes' rivalry and infighting with Basque teammate Jesus Lorono was so fierce that it heightened Spanish political tensions between Franco supporting Bahamontes fans and the Basques in the Lorono camp.
The cut-throat world of 1950s cycling, years before television's intrusion, allows for wild and differing claims from those involved in the disputes, but Fotheringham's considered and impartial stance makes 'The Eagle of Toledo' an unremittingly entertaining read.
Perhaps most surprising is that only one previous biography has ever been written about 'Baha' and that has long been out of print. This was a story that needed retelling, and Fotheringham does it justice.
For those with an interest in Le Tour, or else searching for an excellent sporting summer read, 'The Eagle of Toledo' is quite simply a must.
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