Monday, December 17, 2012

- Iñaki preferred the silence of the mountains

Tributes to the fallen Iñaki Lejarreta have been pouring in ever since the 29-year-old mountain biker was his by a car and killed five kilometres from his home in Berriz Sunday morning. One of those who's been most vocal is former road pro Pedro Horrillo - which should not come as a surprise, seeing as he was a close friend of the Orbea rider and now works as a journalist.

Horrillo, who hails from nearby Eibar, of course flirted with death himself only three years ago, when he famously fell off the descent off the Culmine di San Pietro in the 2009 Giro and fell 70 metres into a ravine. In today's El País, the former Rabobank rider tells the story of how he rightly feared the worst when he saw a blue Orbea helmet lying atop a cement roadblock close to several police cars.

"I saw a bike helmet lying on that road block and, given the time of day, I immediately understood it had to be a professional cyclist", he said, moments earlier having been stopped by the police driving his car on the same N-634 road between San Sebastián and Bilbao. "I knew it had to be a professional, as only pros go training alone. Non-professionals ride in groups and, as there had been a dinner with the majority of the professional cyclists from the area 'till five o'clock in the morning the night before, it couldn't be any of them. So I thought it had to be Iñaki.

"Thank goodness police wouldn't let me through and look under the white blanket - I would have identified him instantly, and it would have been a terrible moment. Iñaki was a good friend of mine".

Both the said daily and Deia today report that the driver of the Renault Clio which hit Lejarreta from behind was blinded by the early-morning sun and didn't see the rider. The fatal accident happened in a 50-zone bereft of heavy traffic on a beautiful Sunday morning, with the 22-year-old driver allegedly on his way to work as a Red Cross volunteer.

To further compound the tragedy, Lejarreta and his wife and trainer, former mountain biker Naiara Telletxea, were expecting their first child in January. According to Horrillo, Lejarreta never really liked riding the road, citing the stress it brings with it.

"As well as riding mountain bikes, he could have made a career on the road. But he chose cross-country over road riding as he didn't like the atmosphere in the peloton, the doping", he said. "As well he told me that he suffered training on the road - that it was too stressful and that he preferred the tranquillity of the mountains. But he had to do some training on the roads, as not all of his training rides could be done in the mountains.

"He was witty, educated, restless... He was the kind of guy you could talk to about anything. He was a great conversationalist, he didn't mind if we spoke for two or four hours.

"The worst thing is that things like these make you lose the motivation to go riding, because this is not an additional risk. It's part of the profession, like my fall in the Giro was".

Lejarreta will be buried at 19:00 on Monday in the church of San Juan Evangelista in Berriz, his birthplace a couple of kilometres east of Durango.


Bob Summers said...

Nice write up, such a shame. The driver has given a positive test for drugs, though the Ertzaintza say it could be due to medication.
I agree with Horillo that you lose motivation when something like this happens. I train on the N-634 too, and can only face the turbo or the mountain bike since this happened

Magnus said...

Yeah, read that story. I've been training a lot on the N-634 these last few months as well, but I try to avoid it as often as possible. Let's hope this will be a wake-up call to improve that particular road. From Galdakano to Durango, in particular, the riding is terrible.


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