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Life of talented rider darkened by depression
By VeloNews Interactive
Jose-Maria Jimenez, once touted as a successor to five-time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain, has died of a suspected heart attack at the age of 32.
Jimenez, a nine-time Vuelta a España stage winner, suffered the attack in Madrid’s San Miguel psychiatric hospital where he was a patient on Saturday, medical sources reported.
The popular Jimenez, who was known for his exuberant personality, retired from professional cycling in 2002 suffering from severe depression. He had since fought valiantly against the debilitating affliction, but was in recent months hospitalized on several occasions.
A specialist climber the former Banesto team member won the Vuelta’s climber’s jersey on three occasions between 1998 and 2001. His best finish in the Vuelta was a third in 1998. He finished eighth in the 1997 Tour de France.
Paying tribute to his stricken compatriot Indurain described Jimenez as an old fashioned cyclist.
“When things were going well, they went really well, when things went bad, they went very bad,” said the five-time Tour winner.
In a telegram to the cyclist’s family the head of the country’s ruling Popular Party (PP) and the man pegged to succeed Jose-Maria Aznar as Prime Minister next year, Mariano Rajoy, a passionate cycling fan, described Jimenez as “without doubt the best climber Spain has had in recent years.”
Indurain suggested the manner in which the popular Jimenez had had to retire suddenly last year, to receive treatment for depression, had made life difficult for the man known for his engaging personality.
“His cycling had suffered due to outside reasons and having to retire suddenly led to problems,” Indurain suggested.
Jimenez was born on February 6, 1971 in El Barraco in central Spain, turning professional for Banesto in 1993.
After a bright start to his career, when he was being mentioned in the same breath as Indurain, Jimenez hit a flat patch with a series of misfortunes and illness.
But he reemerged as a force to be reckoned with on the peloton in 2001 when he ran away with a time trial on the Vuelta.