Basque cyclist killed in car crash

Sunday, October 24, 2004 11.00pm
First-year Costa de Almeria-Paternina pro Jokin Ormaetxea has died in a car crash that has left fell
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Costa de Almeria-Paternina rider Jokin Ormaetxea was killed on Sunday morning when an Audi A3 car in which he was travelling in the front passenger seat left the road in the Basque town of Deba and overturned as it went down a slope. Ormaetxea was taken to hospital in nearby San Sebastian but died a few minutes after his arrival. Ormaetxea, who was just 24, had just completed his first full season as a pro. He is due to be buried in Santa Maria La Real this evening. Euskaltel rider Joseba Albizu, 26, who was driving the car, was seriously hurt in the accident and was also taken to hospital in San Sebastian. Albizu was detained in intensive care with a number of fractures including to his nose and left collar-bone, and bleeding in his lungs, but the San Sebastian hospital has reported that he is out of danger. The two riders had been competing the Txitxarro hill-climb/descent event, which attracts many Basque pros and ends at the Txitxarro discotheque with an end-of-season celebration. Albizu and Ormaetxea had been returning home after the event when the accident occurred at 6.40 on Sunday morning. "He was so good that God decided to take him away from me and have him for his own team," said Costa de Almeria team manager Miguel Moreno. "As a person, Jokin was fabulous, he was a really happy lad, he never looked sad at all. When you looked worried he used to throw an arm around you, he was always happy." Ormaetxea, who was born in the Basque town of Azkoitia, joined Costa de Almeria after winning eight races for the Caja Rural elite team in Basque Country last season. His two best finishes of this season were in the Circuito Getxo, where he was 23rd, and the Clasica a los Puertos, where he was 28th. A well-regarded climber, Ormaetxea's aim this last season had been simply to gain experience of the pro ranks, and having done so he was aiming to raise his level next season. The Txitxarro event was first organised 22 years ago by Marino Lejerrata and Sabino Angoitia, but this year's was only the second to take place after the Txitxarro venue was blown up by an ETA bomb. Liberty Seguros directeur sportif Lejarreta told Spanish radio that 29 current and former pros had been taking part in the event on Saturday.

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