José Maria Jimenez, who died suddenly of a heart attack over the weekend, was buried Monday in his birthplace in El Barraco, near Avila in central Spain.
The luminaries of Spanish cycling attended the ceremony, including his former Banesto teammates Miguel Indurain, Abraham Olano, Eusebio Unzue and Jose Miguel Echavarri.
“Chava”, as he was universally known, died of a heart attack on Saturday night at a Madrid clinic where he was being treated for the depression from which he had been suffering for the last two years. “The best thing we can do is to remember the good times he gave us all,” said Olano who rode alongside Jimenez when the rider was at the peak of his powers in the late 1990s.
“He was one of the old-style riders,” said five-time Tour de France winner Indurain. “He appeared just when you least expected it and fans loved him because he was devastating when he was at his best. He never rode to finish second.”
Born in the province of Avila close to the Gredos mountain range, Jimenez became a favorite with the cycle-mad Spanish public for his spectacular performances in the hills, particularly in the Vuelta a Espana.
Although he lacked the discipline, rigor and consistency of his many of team mates, Jimenez captured the imagination of Spanish fans almost as much as Tour de France winners Indurain and Pedro Delgado. “He had an irrepressible character,” said Echavarri. “He made the fans enjoy cycling and that’s why even though he never enjoyed the triumphs of Miguel (Indurain) and “Perico” (Delgado) he still had the same charisma.”
Jimenez began undergoing treatment for depression at the end of 2001 and although he pledged to return to professional cycling he never managed to get back into full-time training.
Sports daily Marca reported that his fatal heart attack came shortly after he had shown fellow patients at the Madrid clinic an album containing photographs of the highlights of his cycling career.
The 32-year-old rider was on the verge of recovering from depression which caused his retirement two years ago. Under treatment at a psychiatric hospital in Madrid, he got married this year and was trying to build a new life.