Many of the facts about Jose Beyaert's life are matters of public record: he was born in 1928 in Lens; he won an Olympic gold medal in the 1948 road race in Windsor Park; he enjoyed a lengthy sporting career and won many professional cycling races, attaining celebrity status in France, Africa and South America; and he was adopted by right-wing debunkers of Papillon as a more acceptable swashbuckler in French politics. The rest - trafficker of weapons for the Resistance in Vichy France in the Second World War; his adventures in Colombia's emerald fields; diving for Fitzcarraldo's lost treasure in the piranha-infested Orinoco River; his execution of erstwhile business partners who double-crossed him while they were cutting timber in the rain forest; and his friendship with the emerald and cocaine billionaire Jose Rodriquez Gacha ('A good man,' he would say of the sadist and serial murderer, who orchestrated Pablo Escobar's terror in Colombia) - is shrouded in mystery. Jose Beyaert was an inveterate storyteller and myth maker, and the hours of interviews he gave award-winning author Matt Rendell in the final months of his life contain many anecdotes, and jaw-dropping legend. His story is a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid of our era that will shock and enthrall in equal measure.
Matt Rendell writes regularly for several leading British and European publications. He is part of the ITV Tour de France production team and has produced his own documentary on the sport in Colombia for Channel Four.