SportsIn the roots of Chava

In the roots of Chava

The street that El Barraco, his town, dedicated to Chava.Timm Kölln

Chava’s grave is the second that was dug in the new El Barraco cemetery, in Ávila. The first, a few weeks before, is that of the brother of ex-cyclist David Navas, also dead at a young age, a victim of life in a harsh town, with very harsh people. Azucena, Chava’s widow, has not returned to El Barraco for years. The house has been inherited by the cyclist’s sister, Piedad, married to Carlos Sastre, who has built his house right opposite, and next to his father’s. The street is called José María Jiménez, Chava, and ends in a roundabout where his brother Juan Carlos, an artist, raised a monument to his memory. In the garden of his house, he erected a bust of the cyclist also sculpted by him. Oblivion, like weeds, has taken over everything, so soon. Only the return of the Vuelta, 25 years after Chava, happy, invited Miguel Indurain and his colleagues from Banesto to El Pescador, the bar-restaurant of his parents, brings him back to memory, his history. That day, Monday September 16, the Vuelta rested in the region this summer burned by fire. The next day, during the El Tiemblo-Ávila time trial, the whole town took to the streets.

The garden of Chava's house in El Barraco, with her bust.
The garden of Chava’s house in El Barraco, with her bust.Timm Kölln

Four years had passed since the day Chava met Azucena. He is 21 years old and has just won the Montañés Circuit, the great stage race of the Spanish amateur calendar then, and he already knows for sure that the following year he will go professional with Banesto, the Indurain team and Perico Delgado, the dream of any cyclist of the world. Jiménez, who is starting to be Jimmy, the first nickname by which he was known in cycling, who feels like a champion, of course, thinks that Azucena, a 15-year-old girl with large clear eyes, will faint from the shock when she sees that he, the great cycling champion, is about to fool around with her.

Years later, José María Jiménez, Chava, would confess to Azucena that he had been a cyclist as he could have been a bricklayer, carpenter, waiter or bullfighter, and that, in fact, he was not a bullfighter because as a child he was bitten in the ass by a dog he was trying to bullfighting and already knew that there was a lot of danger in life. But everything he did he did well. He won the first cycling race he ran and at school nobody beat him in karate competitions.

He was a chubby boy who spent the evenings serving wine and chorizo ​​at his parents’ bar on the general highway that goes from Ávila to Madrid and crosses El Barraco, and he likes the atmosphere of the bar, the loud conversations, the life so small town. Its town, with a harsh landscape, mountains with pine trees and large blocks of bare granite, with a harsh climate, with inclement frosts in winter and afternoons of fire in summer, less than 2,000 inhabitants, is the town of Ángel Arroyo, The wild, a climber who was second in the ’83 Tour, behind Fignon, and won the time-trial at the Puy de Dôme by ascending with his mouth open and swallowing clouds of mosquitoes. Víctor Sastre also lives there, who was a modest cyclist and dreams that his son Carlos, a spikelet with large cheeks and thin legs, is also a cyclist, and one of the best. Between the two of them they have organized a cycling school so that the town’s kids have some distraction that takes them away from the bars and discos, and Jiménez falls there, who is not yet El Chava, and yes, he weighs more than 100 kilos, but he’s stronger than anyone. He is a real brute who breaks the bike frames, but he has class, he is a better cyclist than anyone.

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It is a very cold February. 2002. Nightfall. Jiménez, who is now El Chava, is alone at his home in El Barraco. He got up early and dressed as a cyclist. He has put on his winter clothes to go out to train, has gone down to the garage to check that the Pinarello was ready, the tires well inflated, everything greased, and has returned to the living room of his house. He has sat down and has not moved. Something in his head had clicked, as if someone had flipped a switch and the illusion light had gone off. Hours have passed and when night has already fallen, he calls Azucena on the phone. Can not be more. He cannot even call Unzue, his director at Banesto, and tell him that he has given up, that he no longer count on him for the team. He just turned 31 years old. His career is past. The present is a cesspool.

The psychiatrist tells them about something they had never heard before, about the dissocial personality. Describes the merciless Chava: a person who needs to feel stronger than his environment, without a sense of responsibility, with permanent self-admiration and narcissism without reflective depth, given to compulsive and quick consumerism of whatever it takes, even money; a personality with a very big hook in front of the people around him, a lovable and, at the same time, reprehensible person, capable of a feat and a bitch at the same time; a man who has established a magnificent relationship with the immediate satisfaction of desire; someone who has never had an effective guardianship, a person at his side with a psychological hierarchy over him. It also reminds Chava that there are addictive personalities. He says it looking into his eyes. He talks about the consequences of doping, the effects on the mood of anabolics. But that Chava already knows.

“Chava had everything in his blood,” says Víctor Sastre, a man of great religious faith who values ​​work above all else and despises pure talent if effort is not accompanied by it. And he looks at everything above because his dream was fulfilled, that his son Carlos was a cyclist, and that he win the Tour, above, he, who had less class, less strength, less style than Chava, but more will, more desire and more ability to sacrifice for your goal. “The problem is that he has always been handsome and handsome. He has always been very good at girls. He has always been good at everything. It has been easy for him ”.

The sun by José María Jiménez Chava it was permanently turned off on December 7, 2003 at the San Miguel Clinic, a drug rehabilitation center in Madrid, where he had entered a week earlier. “He died from Friday to Saturday, and on Monday we already had tickets to go skiing in Switzerland. And it never came. It was a slump that gave him, ”says Azucena, his wife. “We got married and he had a very good season, at home … But he was also very sad, because he couldn’t get back on the bike. Nobody could think that he was going to pass away … It was not written anywhere that his life was going to end quickly … “. The cyclist who most astonished the fans was 32 years old. Last February he would have turned 50.

Best wins

Eight stages of the Vuelta (third overall in 1998 and four times King of the Mountain)

A Volta a Catalunya (plus three stages)

A stage in the Dauphiné Libéré

A Spanish Championship

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