Today marks the eleventh anniversary of the death of Spanish climber, José María Jiménez. Chava as he was known, turned professional with the Banesto team in 1993, and spent all of his career with the Spanish team.
Jiménez became the first man to win on the fearsome Angliru in the 1999 Vuelta, and it was one of nine stage wins he had in his home tour. His best finish overall was in 1998 when he finished in third place. He also won the Mountains Classification in the Vuelta four times, as well as winning the Tour of Catalonia.
Jiménez lived life in the fast lane and would exhibit some very erratic behaviour. Before one stage of the Tour of Catalonia, he disappeared only to return just prior to the start in a new Ferrari he had decided to buy on a whim. He could also have issues on the road with both rivals and team mates such was his passion for the sport, and his competitive character. However, it was also said that he had developed addictions to cocaine and alcohol.
He ended up retiring from racing in 2001 when he should have had some of his best years on the bike still ahead of him. He was forced to retire due to health and psychological problems.
Two years later, he was admitted to a psychiatric clinic in Madrid for treatment for his problems. On December the 6th, he was said to have been showing photos of his cycling exploits to other patients, when he started to feel unwell and fell to the floor. He never recovered. He had suffered an embolism and died at the age of 32. He was buried in his home village of El Barraco, in Avila province.
His brother-in-law and close friend, Carlos Sastre, later dedicated his Tour de France to him. He said, “We were practically inseparable and shared everything together while racing. So my victory is also for him, he would have wanted to be here with me, and to win the Tour. He had the same dream as me.”