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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 December, 2003, 12:15 GMT
Spanish cyclist dies aged 32
Jose-Maria Jimenez
Jose-Maria Jimenez won nine stages in the Tour of Spain
Spanish cyclist Jose-Maria Jimenez has died at the age of 32.

The nine-times Tour of Spain stage winner suffered a heart attack at the San Miguel psychiatric hospital in Madrid, according to news agency AFP.

Once touted as a likely successor to Spanish Tour de France legend Miguel Indurain, Jimenez retired in 2002, suffering from nervous depression.

"It's a premature death, one which we all regret," ONCE cycling team boss Manolo Saez told Radio Marca.

"He was a great fighter who was trying to recover from his depression."

Jimenez's best performances came in the Tour of Spain, in which he finished third overall in 1998 and won the King of the Mountains prize in 2000.

He was born on 6 February 1971 in El Barraco in central Spain, and turned professional for Banesto in 1993.

Indurain also paid his tribute but admitted that Jimenez's career was blighted by personal problems.

"When things were going well, they went really well but when things went bad, they went very bad," said the five-time Tour de France winner.

"His cycling had suffered due to outside reasons and having to retire suddenly led to problems."

"He was a cyclist who was popular with everyone," added Manuel Perez, president of the Spanish cycling federation.

"He was a great champion who has now gone and I'm sad for that."




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