Lying in third place, Ismael Esteban was less than a kilometer from the finishing line of the Santa Bárbara cyclo-cross race in Cantabria, northern Spain, when his bike, which had been giving him trouble throughout the grueling competition, suffered a puncture.
Determined to complete the race, Esteban slung the bike over his shoulder and began running. With just 300 meters to go, his rival Agustín Navarro caught him up. But instead of overtaking, Navarro slowed down and, to applause from spectators, allowed Esteban to continue and finish ahead of him. Video footage of his sportsmanlike gesture was shared by more than 3,000 people in the first 48 hours after the race, which was held on December 8 in Puente Viesgo.
Video: Ismael Esteban carries his bike over the finish line.
“Great sportsmanlike gesture by Asturian cyclist Agustin Navarro Vidal in the Puente Viesgo race,” wrote local sports publication Deporte Astur in its Facebook post. “Agustin Navarro came across Ismael Esteban in the last 100 meters. After sitting comfortably in third place, Ismael ended the race suffering a puncture. With just a short way to go to the finishing line, he took to his feet and with a 100 meters to go Agustín found him and didn’t want to overtake, allowing him to place third carrying the broken bicycle on his back. After finishing, Ismael offered him his prize, which the Asturian rejected. These guys are a cut above the rest!”
The video of the incident posted by race commentator Carlos Lavín has also been shared by more than 1,000 people and seen over 75,000 times on Facebook. The YouTube video that appears above has been watched more than 600,000 times. In a similarly sportsmanlike gesture, Esteban offered Navarro his prize, who turned it down.
In an interview with Deporte Astur, Navarro, aged 37, said he was “a little surprised” at the fuss over his gesture. “I didn’t think he deserved somebody overtaking at that stage, because he had been ahead of me the whole race,” he said. “Furthermore, he was a good two minutes ahead of me when he had the puncture, and it simply wasn’t ethical to overtake him just ahead of the finishing line.”
Navarro said Esteban would have won the race had it not been for the two problems he had with his bike. “Offering me the prize was worth more than what I did for him,” he added.
The pair’s story mirrors that of Iván Fernández and Abel Mutai during the Burlada cross country event in Navarre in 2012, when the Spanish runner allowed his Kenyan rival to complete the race ahead of him after the latter stopped, mistakenly thinking he had already passed the finishing line.
Video: Spanish runner Iván Fernández allows Kenyan Abel Mutai to finish ahead of him in a 2012 Navarre cross-country race