Juan A.Gutierrez of AS.com interviewed "El Chava," Jose Maria Jimenez, last
weekend. This Banesto rider won three Vuelta stages in 2001 (and four in 1998
and one in 2000 - a very talented rider - see his palmares below) but who has
had a difficult go this past season. He has been on medical leave from his team
to address mental problems. But Chava is back, he's in training and wanting to
return to the peloton next year.
2002 ends the worst year of your life. What do you ask of 2003?
Jose Maria Jimenez: That it will not be like 2002, and above all,
What has 2002 taught you?
J.M.J.: It has taught me the hardness of life, how bad some people
have it. The illness is not something that can be chosen, it comes when it comes
and once has to battle it with a lot of suffering.
In the year 2003 that is almost here, are you going to compete?
J.M.J: I hope so. From experience, I know that after a bad year, a
good one follows. Now I'm training well. I am a kilo over, but that is not a
worry. I have never been this strong during any season in December. But the most
important thing is that I have recovered the sensations over the bicycle.
Your return depends on what?
J.M.J: Nothing. Banesto has told me that the doors are open, but they
ask me to be calm, that I will not rush, and to wait for the doctors to say that
I can race. I don't think I will have any problem. If Eusebio Unzue could see
how well I'm training...
Are you still on sick leave?
J.M.J: I'm still on sick leave, but only as a precaution. I have been
taken off almost all medication, but it can't be dropped just like that. My
psychiatrist, Doctor Sherzman, has been incredible and I'm thankful.
Why do you want to return?
J.M.J: For me it's important now that I'm starting to feel like a
sportsman. Before, I saw it impossible as to return, but now I know I can. But
if I want to compete, it's because of the fans, because I would like to thank
them for their fondness towards me. I haven't stopped getting calls, messages.
More than one letter has made me cry. The people ask me to return, and I have to
Do you remember a special message or letter?
J.M.J: I have recieved lots of fondnesses and I will not want to
disclose any one in particular. Also they tell me that I have known how to
suffer and win in my sport, and that with those weapons I have to overcome my
illness. How has everything changed! Before I thought it was almost impossible
to recover and to return to racing, I didn't see the end of my depression. Now I
know I can. The sensations that I'm having again on the bike are incredible!
Since when have you been training?
J.M.J: Since the Vuelta ended. When the season was over, it took the
pressure off of me.
Why have you gone to Canarias?
J.M.J: I have come here looking for warmth. With these temperatures it
is easier to train. I'm in Maspalomas, at the Gloria Palace, where they are
treating me brilliantly. I'm enjoying very much Canarias and the bike.
Which was your worst experience?
J.M.J: The worst was the time when I thought I couldn't come out.
Because I took a wrong step, I found myself involved in an illness that
consumes: you don't know where you are, what you want. You don't know what's
going on in life.
Why did it take you so long to tell what was happening to you. Why were
J.M.J: Because my doctor told me that it was better not to have any
contacts with the public life, because it could hurt me, and that I needed to
relax and not to obsess with cycling. That's why many times I didn't answer the
So detrimental was your contact with cycling!
J.M.J: Yes. If sometimes I approached some race, it made me upset and
then I spent four hours crying. I had to unplug myself from cycling, because it
was hurting me alot.
Who has helped you the most?
J.M.J: I had the support of my friends, of my family....but above all,
of Azucena (ed. note: Azucena is El Chava's girlfriend and manager). She
has endured with impressionable strength. She has demonstrated to me that she is
above me in character and valor.
Your family has suffered.
J.M.J: I know. The problem is that my family have a public
establishment and many people went there telling them stupid things. That made
them worry more.
Who has dissapointed you?
J.M.J: Especially some who I thought were my friends and they have let
me down, because they have gone telling too much, saying things just to cause
Is your depression linked to your night outings.
J.M.J: Enough!. I'm a public man and when I go out, many people see
me. I like to party, but everything is exaggerated, and things are invented. I
could be drinking a Coca-Cola and it's said they saw me drunk. They only talk
about my outings, but why they don't talk about how much I'm training.
Are you afraid to fail in your return to cycling?
J.M.J: I'm not afraid. Everyone knows me as a cyclist. If my legs
hurt, I don't pedal. But when I'm good, I give everything. And that continues to
be my philosophy. If I say I'm good, and that I can race, it's because I feel
it. The physical strength is the most important and I have it. Also I count with
the confidence of the team.
And if you can't race again?
J.M.J: I don't contemplate that. I will not retire without racing
again. And I will do it in Banesto, that's my home.
Are you satisfied with racing or are you thinking of winning?
J.M.J: I know I can win again, because I'm better than in other years.
I have marked two objectives, one in the Tour and the other in the Vuelta, but I
rather don't tell.(ed.note: We have heard that the Tour objective is Alpe d'Huez. The Vuelta one may well be Sierra Nevada, although this is only speculation)
Has the example of Armstrong or other athletes with severe illnesses
J.M.J: Without a doubt. All those examples help you recuperate,
because you know that many people in the world suffer and have the power to
overcome and to fight.
In that period you would have talked to many illed persons. What have you
J.M.J: I have learned the lessons about life. In the clinics I have
encountered people with incredible problems, but also with a great strength to
Jose Maria Jimenez
Born 16 February 1972
El Barraco, Spain
Professional since 1992
Palmares since 1997
1º. General Vuelta a La Rioja
1º. 2ª Stage Vuelta a La Rioja
1º. Cto. España Línea
1º. 19ª Stage Vuelta a España
1º. General Mountains Vuelta a España
2º. 5ª Stage Vuelta a Asturias
2º. 3ª Stage Vuelta a La Rioja
2º. 12ª Stage Vuelta a España
2º. 13ª Stage Vuelta a España
2º. Subida al Naranco
3º. 2ª Stage Vuelta a Asturias
3º. Clásica Alpes
3º. 15ª Stage Vuelta a España
5º. General Vuelta a Asturias
5º. 9ª Stage Tour de France
5º. 20ª Stage Vuelta España
1º 5ª Stage Vuelta a Asturias
1º 3ª Stage Dauphiné Liberé
1º 6ª Stage Vuelta a España
1º 10ª Stage Vuelta a España
1º 11ª Stage Vuelta a España
1º 16ª Stage Vuelta a España
1º Mountains Vuelta a España
1º Mountains Vuelta Burgos
1º Mountains Dauphiné Liberé
1º Mountains Alcobendas
2º GC Vuelta a Asturias
2º 7ª Stage Dauphiné Liberé
3º GC Vuelta a España
1º 8ª Stage Vuelta a España
2º 3ª Stage Vuelta a Aragón
2º GC Vuelta a Aragón
2º 8ª Stage Giro de Italia
2º 6ª Stage Volta a Cataluña
2º 7ª Stage Volta a Cataluña
2º 4ª Stage Vuelta a Burgos
3º GC Volta a Cataluña
3º 2ª Stage Vuelta a Castilla y León
3º Subida a Urkiola
3º 12ª Stage Vuelta a España
3º 13ª Stage Vuelta a España
3º 18ª Stage Vuelta a España
1º Clásica des Alpes
1º 7ª Stage.(Queen Stage) Volta Catalunya
1º Volta Catalunya
1º 8e Stage Vuelta a Espana
1º 11e Stage Vuelta a Espana (Andorra)
1º 12e Stage Vuelta a Espana