Spanish cyclist José Viejo, 65, died on Sunday in his Azuqueca de Henares home northeast of Madrid after fighting liver disease. However, he continues to hold his spot in the Tour de France‘s record book with the biggest winning time gap for a solo post-war stage winner, 22 minutes and 50 seconds.
Viejo raced in Luis Ocaña’s 1976 Tour de France Super Ser squad. The sports director ordered one of his men to win a stage after leader Ocaña lost time in the Alpine mountains and trailed overall leader Lucien Van Impe by 10-57 minutes.
The task fell on Viejo’s shoulders in the 224-kilometre stage 11 to Manosque. He escaped with 160 kilometres to race and celebrated victory with 22-50 minutes on Dutchman Gerban Karstens.
He relived every hour when he returned home to Azuqueca de Henares thanks to his wife Elena, who recorded the broadcast. With Elena, he had five children.
Viejo raced for teams La Casera, Super Ser, Kas, Teka and Zor. His career spanned 12 years, from 1971 to 1982, but the Manosque stage remained his biggest trophy. His palmarès also includes the Tour of Poland overall, and stages in smaller stage races Vuelta a Andalucía, Vuelta a Asturias and País Vasco.
After he retired, he opened a sports shop and worked for a lottery company. He will be remembered today at a mass in Azuqueca de Henares and likely for years to come as the Tour’s big solo winner.