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Cycling Memorials - Ricardo and Javier Otxoa
 
By Podofdonny
Date: 9/25/2003
Cycling Memorials - Ricardo and Javier Otxoa
 

The story of the Otxoa brothers, Ricardo and Javier, is tragic and sad. However, from the depths of despair and tragedy Javier has fought back; here is the remarkable tale as it has unfolded…

Thursday, February 15, 2001 -- Kelme rider killed

Ricardo Otxoa was killed and his twin brother Javier was badly injured Thursday when they were hit by a car while training, a Spanish newspaper's Web site said.

The sports daily Marca reported in its Internet edition that the accident occurred as the 26-year-old brothers were cycling along an expressway near the southern town of Cartama in the province of Malaga. Ricardo, who rode for the Kelme team, was killed, while Javier was taken to a nearby hospital in critical condition. The driver of the car involved in the accident was not injured, Marca said.

Friday, February 16, 2001--The Otxoa tragedy: Javier in very serious condition

Javier Otxoa remained in a “very serious” condition on Friday after the road accident that killed his twin brother and fellow Kelme rider Ricardo Ochoa.

Javier, a stage winner in the 2000 Tour de France, was taken to a Malaga hospital, where he remains in intensive care.

“His condition is very serious,” said hospital spokesman Luis Plaza. The rider suffered serious head and chest injuries as well as a broken tibia and fibula.

Ricardo was due to race in the Vuelta a Andalucia starting on Sunday, while Javier was expected to race the Tour de France again this season.

Last year, Spanish rider Saul Morales died following a collision with a lorry on the seventh stage of the Tour of Argentina. The previous year, Manuel Sanroma was killed in the Volta a Catalunya and in 1996 Jose Antonio Espinosa was killed in a race in Fuenlabrada. In 1994 Antonio Martín was killed by a truck while training near Madrid.

Saturday, February 17, 2001 -- Otxoa Still in Coma

Javier Otxoa was still in a coma Saturday, two days after the accident that killed his twin brother and teammate.

Otxoa is on a respirator at the intensive care unit of Carlos Haya Hospital in Malaga, the Spanish news agency Efe said.

The hospital described Otxoa's condition as "very serious" and said it did not rule out new complications as he fights for his life, the agency said.

The coffin of former Kelme team rider Ricardo Otxoa is carried out of the church by members of the Kelme cycling team after the funeral ceremony held in Berango, Basque Country, 17 February 2001.

Ricardo Otxoa died in a road accident last Thursday 15 during a training session in Malaga. AFP Photo EPA/EFE/Luis Tejido.

"As I saw him lie there - I saw a dead man," Kelme DS Vicente Belda, said gravely after visiting the hospital bedside of Javier Otxoa.

For nine weeks Javier lay in a coma - the 1.84 metre Tour de France stage winner had shrunk to just 49 kilos. The physicians could see no end to his suffering and advised his grieving parents to turn off the machines that kept him alive.

They refused.

Seven days later Javier opened his eyes to a strange new world.

He had survived.

The price of survival was high. When Javier Otxoa returned home, after 5 months in hospital, he was as a child. Unable to talk properly or solve simple arithmetic problems, his parents faced the task of caring for their son who seemed to be wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life.

However, the doctors prescribed the ailments but not the patient. Javier battled back - "You learn a lot if you are a cyclist, I never threw the towel in. My goal is to be able to ride a bicycle again. That is what I worked for."

Wednesday, October 31, 2001 -- "I hope ride a bike in one year"

Advances. Three steps forward, one back. Javier Otxoa, the hero of Hautacam continues recovering from the serious accident that he suffered next to his brother Ricardo in February. Little by little and he still has a lot left to go. Yesterday he wanted to be with the journalists. In their house, the telephones don't stop ringing, so their family organized a press conference to please everyone: he were astonished by the attendance: "I am excited.. to thank you for coming and because you still remember me."

With a picture of his Tour victory behind him and looking good, with even more kilos than when competed, Javier handled the questions. It was in the afternoon, because the doctors are strict. The first hours of the day are busy. Every morning, Javier Otxoa gets up out of the bed, he has breakfast and travels from Berango to Bilbao (16 kilometers), to work on his recovery: "It is the hardest thing, to have to be there every day." Psychologists and psychiatrists assist him, he does exercises to activate the part of the brain that still is sleeping, and in the afternoon he puts in many hours of gym: "One week ago he got on his it competition bike and after three or four tries was able to travel 20 meters alone one," says his proud father.

He still leans on his brother Andoni to walk, but it is a miracle that he can make it, and his words are sometimes confused. "But I am very happy and very lively. It seems like  people remember me. This is a very long process and I have to work very hard, but every time I am better."

His sentences are short and his voice still suffers the after-effects of the accident. He has the still very visible scar of the tracheotomy administered on the way to the Hospital Carlos Haya to save his life. He is not even 50% of the Javier Otxoa who won in Hautacam, but he wants be that again: "I envy cyclists. I hope to be able to get on a bicycle before year and half. Kelme has told me that I still have a year of contract left and it is a pride to me that they still remember me."

Javier Otxoa is aware that he is not far along, "This goes little by little," and his father, Ricardo, explains that the most important thing is to have patience: "He is still as a boy to whom it is necessary to teach everything. In rehabilitation they teach him to move, to walk and to think. You will have noticed it: when he is asked something he has to think of the answer because he still hasn't re-learned the immediate mechanism of responding, but step advances by step."

Thursday, October 17, 2002 -- Javier Otxoa: "Difficult to return to competing as a professional"

The cyclist Javier Otxoa, who was severely wounded in an accident in Malaga, says that he sees it as "very difficult" to return to professional riding, but aspires to compete as a Special Olympics sportsman.

"Still I have plans, and I am going them to have in the future. Competition level, to ride with the professionals, I see as a little difficult. Some of the injuries that I have are serious enough, I will try to train and to improve, but…" he said to "Out of Play" on Euskadi Radio.

"I think I would like to compete in events with people who have physical difficulties," said Otxoa.

"I have many dreams to be able to ride. I would like to ride as I had previously, such as in the Tour or the Vuelta, at the professional level, but now it is different, I think the best thing is to do compete in other modes, such as the 'paralímpico.'"

Despite his injuries he continued to train undauntedly: first on an Ergometer, then on rollers. And in November 2002, 21 months after the accident, he finally managed to get on, for the first time, a normal racing cycle.

Since that time Javier’s former D.S. Belda has said that he is the "living proof that there are miracles". Otxoa not only had to fight his injuries but also depression following the tragedy. In order to fight against this he gave himself new goals - to race cycles again and return to his winning ways.

Sunday, November 10, 2002 -- A Special Sunday in Valencia

Excerpt from "Criterium Internacional de Ciclismo Comunidad Valenciana-Gran Premio CAM" report:
The Valencia competition was marked by other significant features, starting from the presence of two Spanish riders, both of them definitively (and "formally") pulling out of cycling after this contest. One is former Vuelta winner and World Champion Abraham Olano, who took part in his last race as a professional cyclist.

And other one was Javier Otxoa. The former Kelme rider, even able to beat Lance Armstrong and solo to victory in the Lourdes Hautacam mountain stage of the 2000 Tour, was back in the saddle for the first time after the tragical road accident of February 2001, when his brother Ricardo was killed and Javier himself sustained serious injuries. In what was just a symbolical gesture, but extremely significative and appreciated, Otxoa raced two laps of the Valencian circuit, the first all by himself, the second "escorted" by the rest of the peloton.

The Basque, cheered by the crowd all the time, admitted that being back on a bike was source of big emotion to him, adding that "Wearing a rider's jersey again made me very happy. Like a dream that came true. It all was such a nice thing to me, including the presence of so many people who cheered and supported me".

Not just the spectators, but also all participants in the contest gave a warm welcome to Otxoa and his family. Oscar Sevilla, a former teammate of Javier, said that his comeback on a bike was the best thing of the contest, and that Otxoa has won his most important race. Also race organizer Javier Castellar thanked Otxoa and his parents for being there: "The Otxoas truly deserve this homage. I know it was a big sacrifice for them, but I also know that they accepted because the picture of him back in the saddle is the best possible one we might have".


 

Since February Otxoa has been pushing himself and has been cycling up to 80 kilometers per day - and so his remarkable comeback continues.

Thursday, July 31, 2003 -- Javier Otxoa aims for Athens

Javier Otxoa, former Kelme rider whose fallen brother was honoured today in the Circuito de Getxo-III Memorial Ricardo Otxoa, says, "I would like to be paralympic champion in Athens. I am going away to prepare for it. I do not know the level at which my rivals will be, with whom I am going to compete. I think that it will not be easy, but will at least try to give the best possible level."

The so-called hero of Hautacam (Otxoa won the Dax - Lourdes Hautacam stage in the 2000 Tour), has spent the last two years dealing serious physical injuries after a training ride accident which took the life of his twin brother Ricardo, participated in June in the Campeonato de España de Disminuidos Psíquicos, the Spanish national championships for the physically disabled. He took second place to 20 year old Maurice Eckhard, a Valencian with a German father.

While Otxoa said it was not the result he hoped for, Eckhard, who suffers from cerebral palsy, was in 2002 Absolute Champion of Spain in the Track, Route and Race categories (gold in the time trial, silver in the road race and bronze in the 3 km pursuit), also winning the Worlds time trial last August in Germany. (Contrareloj, Diario AS)

Wednesday, September 24, 2003 -- Otxoa Happy

The professional ex-cyclist Javier Otxoa was today "happy" with the medals he won in the Paralympic Open European Cycling Championships. The rider from Vizcaíno won a total of seven medals, three of gold, three of silver and one of bronze.

Javier Otxoa’s dream of winning a Gold medal in the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens is still on schedule and we wish him every success in achieving this goal.


2001: Ruta del Sol, the peloton passes the memorial to Ricardo Otxoa Palacios

 Thanks to Dewielersite, Radsport-news, Elsprint, Ya.com, El Mundo and Malarenergi.


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