“I can die in peace, at least as long as Lenny Martinez is in the red jersey. » Installed in front of his television set alongside his companion Marie-Noëlle, Thursday, to follow the 6ᵉ stage of the Vuelta, Mariano Martinez followed with great interest the performances of his grandson Lenny. At 20 years and 51 days, the French climber has become the second youngest rider in history to lead a Grand Tour, since Henri Cornet in 1904, on the Tour de France. Curious coincidence, the talent of Lenny Martinez was expressed on the land of his ancestors.
Mariano Martinez, best climber of the 1978 Tour, was born in Burgos (Spain) before being naturalized French in 1963. Married to Marie-Noëlle Simonin, also from a family of cyclists, he became more than a model , a tutor for young Lenny. “He often came to have lunch at the house, after school. We took care of his career and we discussed long hours of cycling. »
Like his father, Miguel, “rarely at home and often abroad” to pursue his career as a professional mountain biker (in 2000, he achieved the double world championships and Olympic Games), Lenny Martinez was sent to CC Varennes-Vauzelles, a cycling club in Nièvre.
With his younger brother Andrea, he began a career on the road and in cyclo-cross. “His grandmother came to see me to push me to register them, recalls Michel Fievet, president of the club. When he was young, he said he wanted to be a professional runner. He knew where he was going and gave himself the means. »
Stroll through his native region aboard the Citroën C3 driven by “Granny-No” to take on the best road racers, Lenny Martinez quickly reveals some “exceptional physical abilities”explains his grandfather Mariano, a fine connoisseur. “When he was only 12 years old and despite a somewhat frail physique, I took him to the White Coast [près de Garchizy, dans la Nièvre]. He impressed me and I realized he would be a great climber. »
“He was always on a bike”
Despite encouraging beginnings, Lenny Martinez was forced to stop cycling – following the divorce of his parents, he moved to the South, with his mother, in Montauroux (Var). At 14, he returned to his paternal family and got back on the bike. Spotted by the regional committee of Burgundy, the small size “orients his career towards the road, which interests him more”according to Michel Fievet. “As soon as there was a small bump, we understood that he was above the fray. He was always on a bicycle. »
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