Velo News

  1. Home » VeloList: The top 10 climbers of all time » 3. Federico Bahamontes

3. Federico Bahamontes

He was timid in a pack, often drifting from the back of the peloton on flat stages. He was frightened by even the mildest of descents. He was eccentric and erratic, speaking in the third person about himself, abandoning races on a whim.

Federico Bahamontes had one weapon: he could soar in the mountains. In 1958, the “Eagle of Toledo” met his match in the “Angel of the Mountains,” Charly Gaul. Still, he won two stages at the Tour de France that year.

Then, the improbable occurred. After joining the squad of the aging Fausto Coppi in 1959, Bahamontes became a complete rider. He found himself in breakaways. He passed on chasing mountain points so that he could win summit finishes. And he out-climbed everyone, even beating Gaul by almost a minute and a half in a 12.5-kilometer time trial.

Bahamontes became the first Spaniard to win the Tour de France that year and he was the King of the Mountain, a feat he repeated five more times at the Tour. Photo: AFP