Juanma Gárate, three times great: Vuelta, Giro and Tour

The former cyclist started in sports as a Real Union footballer. One of his best victories came atop Mont Ventoux on the 2009 Tour.


Juanma Gárate made his first steps in sports as a Real Unión footballer, but had to leave it due to a foot problem. His grandfather then gave him a bicycle, which he took on vacation to Fuenteguinaldo (Salamanca), where he won the festival race. There he began to be a cyclist. And he was not bad. He won stages in the big three: Vuelta, Giro and Tour. Today he will leave his native Irún as director of Education First.

Gárate stood out in his last year as an amateur, 1999, with eight victories in two months, but nobody opened the door for him in Spain. When he began to despair, the solution came to him. His friend José María Eceiza had flooded Italy with faxes, where he received a reply from Pietro Algeri, the director of Lampre. With that jersey he achieved his first great triumph in the 2001 Vuelta, on a rainy day between Tarragona and Vinarós, which he solved on the last straight against Juan Carlos Domínguez. That same year he had helped Gilberto Simoni win the Giro. The Italian round was always good for him: fourth in 2004, fifth in 2005, seventh in 2006 ... 444 444

The 2006 Giro gave him another moment on a tappone in the Dolomites that culminated in San Pellegrino after 224 kilometers and more than seven hours on the bike. His rival this time was Jens Voigt, but there was no final battle. The German patted him on the back: "I had an order not to work on the breakaway and it was not fair to win the stage," said Voigt, teammate of champion Ivan Basso at CSC. The Irundarra, embedded in the Spanish champion jersey, crossed the finish line touching his abdomen. His wife, Eider, had sent him a fax the day before with an ultrasound announcing his paternity.

The third jewel, the most valuable, came to him at the age of 33 on the 2009 Tour. This time he had to defeat another German, Tony Martin, to prevail on a mythical peak: Mont Ventoux. "This is the greatest thing that could happen to me," Garate said later, who confessed that he had dreamed of victory, but in another way: "Contador would catch me and let me win." Contador actually arrived 38 seconds later, arms raised. He had won his second Tour. And Gárate rounded the triplet. A great day.

Photos from as.com
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