My music shuffle had just reached Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Somewhere over the rainbow” when the SMSs and Tweets came in. Xavier Tondo is dead. Im sitting here behind my computer, close to tears for a man I didn’t even know that well.
He rode for the TestTeam for just one year, in 2010. I met him only a half dozen times, but he was special. I never saw him upset or angry, he was always smiling, always friendly, not a bad bone in his body. For years and years he tried to break into the big league, but he was somehow always overlooked. Whatever the reason, it hadn’t seemed to affect him. He loved cycling – anywhere, anytime, in any race and with anyone – and was simply happy that in 2010, he finally got his chance. And he took that chance.
Although there are no locker rooms in cycling, you’d want to build one and introduce a half-time in cycling just so he could be that guy who makes a difference for the second half. It’s important to have a few stars, but it’s even more important to have some guys who keep it all together. Xavier was the glue.
Now my shuffle is playing “Comptine d’un autre été – L’après-midi” from Yann Tiersen, how appropriate.
My favorite memory of Xavier comes from after the TestTeam stopped. He got a contract at Movistar, finally the big Spanish team recognized him for what he was, one of the biggest raw talents despite his age. In November, we held our annual dealer meetings in Portugal, and we were looking for some riders to take our dealers for a spin.
Although there was no reason left to do anything for us, and several riders indeed refused to show up when asked, Xavier was there, smile in tow. He hung out with our dealers, went with them on beautiful rides and afterwards, all these German, Belgian and Dutch dealers had suddenly become fans of a Spanish rider.
The shuffle switches to Pink, that doesn’t work. Better write in silence now.
I particularly remember one ride where he hammered for four hours with our strongest dealers in his slipstream, riding at their max and loving every second of it. Upon their return, the heart-rate monitors revealed a sufferfest of epic proportions. Then one dealer made the unwise decision to check Xavier’s monitor. Average 96 bpm!
A big heart in more ways than one. RIP.