- Category : Cyclist
- Type : GE
- Profile : 3/5 - Martyr / Heretic
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Penetration 4
Jacques Anquetil (8 January 1934 – 18 November 1987) was a French road racing cyclist and the first cyclist to win the Tour de France five times, in 1957 and from 1961 to 1964. He stated before the 1961 Tour that he would gain the yellow jersey on day one and wear it all through the tour, a tall order with two previous winners in the field—Charly Gaul and Federico Bahamontes—but he did it. His victories in stage races such as the Tour were built on an exceptional ability to ride alone against the clock in individual time trial stages, which lent him the name "Monsieur Chrono".
Anquetil was the son of a builder in Mont-Saint-Aignan, in the hills above Rouen in Normandy, north-west France. He lived there with his parents, Ernest and Marie, and his brother Philippe and then at Boisguillaume in a two-storey house, "one of those houses with exposed beams that tourists think are pretty but those who live there find uncomfortable."
In 1941, his father refused contracts to work on military installations for the German occupiers and his work dried up. Other members of the family worked in strawberry farming and Anquetil's father followed them, moving to the hamlet of Bourguet, near Quincampoix. Anquetil had his first bicycle - an Alcyon - at the age of four and twice a day rode the kilometre and a half to the village and back. There he was taught by a teacher wearing clogs in a classroom heated by a smoking stove.
Anquetil learned metal-turning at the technical college at Sotteville-lès-Rouen, a suburb of the city, where he played billiards with a friend named Maurice Dieulois. His friend joined the AC Sottevillais club with the encouragement of his father and began racing. Anquetil said:
“... was impressed by the way girls were attracted to Dieulois because he had become a coureur cycliste ... so I gave up my first choice - running - and joined the club as well." ”
He was 17 and he took out his first racing licence on 2 December 1950. He stayed a member the rest of his life and his grave in the churchyard at Quincampoix has a permanent tribute from his clubmates.
Anquetil passed his qualifications in light engineering and went to work for 50 old francs a day at a factory in Sotteville. He left after 26 days following a disagreement with his boss over time off for training. The AC Sottevillais, founded in 1898, was run by a cycle-dealer, André Boucher, who had a shop in the Place du Trianon in Sotteville. The club had not just Anquetil but Claude LeBer, who became professional pursuit champion in 1955, Jean Jourden, world amateur champion in 1961, and Francis Bazire, who came second in the world amateur championship in 1963.
Boucher trained his group first from a bicycle and then by Derny. Anquetil made fast progress and won 16 times as an amateur. His first victory was the Prix Maurice Latour at Rouen on 3 May 1951. He also took the Prix de France in 1952 and the Tour de la Manche and the national road championship the same year.
The Grand Prix des Nations
Anquetil rode in the French team in the 100 km time trial at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki and won a bronze medal. Impressed by his protégé's progress, André Boucher sent an envelope of Anquetil's press cuttings to the local representative of the Perle bicycle company and asked him to send them to the firm's cycling team manager, the former Tour de France rider, Francis Pélissier.
Pélissier called Anquetil, who was surprised and flattered to hear from him, and offered him 30,000 old francs a month to ride for La Perle as an independent, or semi-professional. Anquetil accepted and immediately ordered a new car, a Renault Fregate, which he crashed twice in the first 12 months.
Pélissier wanted Anquetil for the 1953 Grand Prix des Nations, a race started by the newspaper Paris-Soir which since 1932 had risen to the status of an unofficial world time-trial championship. It was held on a 142 km loop of rolling roads through Versailles, Rambouillet, Maulette, St-Rémy-les-Chevreuse and then back to Versailles before, originally, finishing on the Buffalo track in Paris.
Anquetil was aware that one of his rivals was an Englishman named Ken Joy, who had broken records in Britain but was unknown in France. He would ride with another Englishman, Bob Maitland. The historian Richard Yates says:
Many of the 'against-the-clock' fraternity in the United Kingdom sincerely believed that the British time triallists were as good as, if not better than, their Continental counterparts and here was the chance to prove it. When the final result was known the British fans were disappointed and saw the race as a total failure for Britain as both Englishman had finished nearly 20 minutes down. To rub salt in the wounds, the event had been won by an unknown, curly-haired teenager from Normandy.
Anquetil caught Joy — the moment he realised he was going to win the race — even though Joy had started 16 minutes earlier. At 19, Anquetil had become unofficial time-trial champion of the world.
The win pleased Pélissier but did not convince him. Next year he drove his team car not behind Anquetil but his Swiss star, Hugo Koblet. Anquetil was not amused. When he beat Koblet, he sent his winner's bouquet to Pélissier's wife "in deepest sympathy".
Anquetil rode the Grand Prix des Nations nine times without being beaten.
On 22 September 1954, Anquetil started two years' compulsory service in the army, joining the Richepanse de Rouen barracks as a gunner of the 406th artillery regiment. The army accorded him few great favours but there was an exception:
“In June 1956, my chiefs finally gave me an order more to my liking, the strangest, the most unusual that a gunner has ever been asked to carry out; it was nothing less than to beat the world hour record. I knew what that meant: to storm a veritable fortress. For 14 years, since 7 November 1942, the date on which Fausto Coppi planted the Italian flag on it, it had discouraged all assailants. One figure sums up the difficulty of the enterprise: 45.848 km.”
Should he break the record, he and the army agreed, he would give half the rewards to the army and the rest to the mother of a soldier, André Dufour, who had been killed while fighting at Palestro, in Algeria. The chances of breaking it were far from guaranteed, not only because Coppi's record had already defied Gerrit Schulte and Louison Bobet but also Anquetil himself, on 23 November 1955, when he had started too fast, faded and finished 696 m short of Coppi. His second attempt also flopped. He again started too fast. After 54:36 his helpers called him to a stop after 41.326 km. His legs failed him when he got off his bike and he had to be carried to a chair in a corner of the Velodromo Vigorelli, the velodrome in Milan, Italy. The Italian crowd chanted: "Coppi! Coppi! Coppi!"
“I was like a child's lead soldier that has lost its horse.”
Next day he received a telegram: "Congratulations on a good performance. Sure of your success. Take your time. Captain Gueguen will arrive tomorrow with instructions. Signed: Commander Dieudonné".
At 7:30pm on 29 June 1956, riding a lighter bike made in three days to the same design as Coppi's, and using a 7m40 gear (52x15), Anquetil tried again and finally broke his hero's record, riding 46.159 km. Coppi was the first professional to give Anquetil his autograph. When the two next met, Anquetil was also a professional. He went to Italy to meet Coppi and, for reasons never explained, dressed as a simple country boy rather than in the smart clothes that he normally wore.
“The grandstands fell quiet. They were preparing to take Coppi to the cemetery. I liked that silence. On the 84th lap, Boucher gave me my release. "Allez, môme, tout!" Until then I had been well within myself ... On a big school blackboard, Captain Gueguen wrote 46.159km. I could lift my arms, sit up and breathe a bit of fresh air. Ah, the public! Those who were whistling me four laps earlier kissed my bike, my jersey, reaching out to touch me in the way they do during processions of holy relics.”
In 1967, 11 years later, Anquetil again broke the hour record, with 47.493 km, but the record was disallowed because he refused to take the newly introduced post-race doping test. He objected to what he saw as the indignity of having to urinate in a tent in front of a crowded velodrome and said he would take the test later at his hotel. The international judge ruled against the idea and a scuffle ensued that involved Anquetil's manager, Raphaël Géminiani. Cycling reported:
Wonderful Jacques Anquetil has broken the world hour record as he said he would... and then ran into official trouble when he refused to take a trackside dope test demanded by the Italian authorities. An Italian Dr Giuliano Marena asked for the urine sample, but Anquetil refused and asked him to come to his hotel. Dr Marena refused and, after waiting a couple of hours at the track, left town to go home to Florence. Anquetil said at his hotel: 'I didn't and don't intend to escape the test, but it must take place under circumstances far different from those at the velodrome. I'm still here and ready to undergo the test.' While Italian officials talked of taking the matter to the UCI, Dr Tanguy of the FFC took a sample from Anquetil on his return to Rouen, pointing out afterwards that it would be valid up to 48 hours after the record attempt. But Raphaël Géminiani, his manager, had all but lost his temper with the Italian medical man and had tried to throw him out of the cabin, though Jacques had remonstrated mildly. Later he said that he understood the tests would be valid for up to 48 hours and said he was trying to locate another doctor for the test.
Anquetil rode a 52 × 13 gear. His split times:
0–5 km 6m 17.4
5–10 km 6m 19.6
10–15 km 6m 18.4
15–20 km 6m 19.8
20–25 km 6m 19.4
25–30 km 6m 19.0
30–35 km 6m 19.0
35–40 km 6m 18.2
40–45 km 6m 21
Tour de France
In 1957 Anquetil rode - and won - his first Tour de France. His inclusion in the national team - the Tour was still ridden by national rather than commercial teams - was what the French broadcaster Jean-Paul Ollivier called "a forceps operation".
Louison Bobet and Raphaël Géminiani wished to rule the Tour de France and had no desire to have Anquetil. But Louison, worn out from his battle of nerves that he suffered in the Tour of Italy, where he used all his energy in defending the maglia rosa against Italian hatred , declared, on the banks of the Adriatic; "I am not prepared, mentally, to take part in the Tour de France. I am 32 in a world of youth."
Anquetil recognised the allusion and accepted the invitation to ride. He finished nearly 15 minutes ahead of the rest, having won 4 solo stages plus the team stage.
In 1959, Anquetil was whistled as he finished the Tour on the Parc des Princes because spectators had worked out that he and others had contrived to let Federico Bahamontes win rather than the Frenchman Henry Anglade. The French team was unbalanced by internal rivalries. Anglade, whose bossy nature earned him the nickname Napoleon, was particularly unusual in that he was represented by the agent Roger Piel while the others had Daniel Dousset. The two men controlled all French racing. Dousset soon worked out that his riders had to either beat Bahamontes or make sure that Anglade didn't win. Since they couldn't beat Anglade, they contrived to let Bahamontes win because Bahamontes, a poor rider on the flat and on small circuits, would be no threat to the post-Tour criterium fees that made up the bulk of riders' — and agents' — earnings.
Anquetil was jeered and showed his coldness to public reaction by buying a boat that he named "The Whistles of 59" and by pointing out that he was a professional and that his first interest was therefore money. It was an attitude that other riders could understand but made it hard for fans to love him.
In 1960 Anquetil stayed away from the Tour, returning in 1961 and winning the Tour de France thereafter until 1964. He won in 1962 at a speed not bettered until 1981. He was the first rider to win four successive times, breaking the record of three set by Philippe Thys and Louison Bobet. He was also the first to win five times in total, a feat since emulated by Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain.
In 1963 Tour de France, at the top of a mountain, Anquetil faked a mechanical problem, so that his team director could give him a bicycle that was more suitable for the descent. The plan worked, and Anquetil overtook Bahamontes in the descent and won the stage, taking over the lead in the general classification.
His last Tour victory (in 1964) was also his most famous, featuring an elbow-to-elbow duel with public favourite Raymond Poulidor on the road up the Puy de Dôme mountain on 12 July. Suffering indigestion after his excesses on a rest day, Anquetil is reputed to have received treatment from his team manager in the form of a swallow of champagne — a story that Anquetil's wife says is untrue.
The Tour organiser, Jacques Goddet was behind the pair as they turned off the main road and climbed through what the police estimated as half a million spectators. Goddet recalled:
The two, at the extreme of their rivalry, climbing the road wrapped like a ribbon round the majestic volcano, terribly steep, in parallel action... I've always been convinced that in these moments that supreme player of poker, the Norman , used his craftiness and his fearless bluffing to win his fifth Tour. Because, to me, it was clear that Anquetil was at the very limit of his strength and that had Poulidor attacked him repeatedly and suddenly then he would have cracked... Although his advisers claim that his error in maintaining steady pressure rather than attacking was the result of using slightly too big a gear, which stopped his jumping away, I still think that it was in his head that Pou-Pou should have changed gears.
Anquetil rode on the inside by the mountain wall while Poulidor took the outer edge by the precipice. They could sometimes feel the other's hot gasps on their bare arms. At the end, Anquetil cracked, after a battle of wills and legs so intense that at times they banged elbows. Of Anquetil, Pierre Chany wrote:
"His face, until then purple, lost all its colour; the sweat ran down in drops through the creases of his cheeks."
Anquetil was only semi-conscious, he said. Anquetil's manager, Raphaël Géminiani, said:
Anquetil's head was a computer. It started working: in 500 metres, Poulidor wouldn't get his 56 seconds. I'll never forget what happened when Jacques crossed the line. Close to fainting, he collapsed on the front of my car. With barely any breath left, exhausted, but 200 per cent lucid, he asked me: 'How much?' I told him 14 seconds. 'That's one more than I need. I've got 13 in hand'.
In my opinion Poulidor was demoralised by Anquetil's resistance, his mental strength. There were three times when he could have dropped Anquetil. First, at the bottom of the climb. Then when Julio Jimenez attacked . Finally in the last kilometre. The nearer the summit came, the more Jacques was suffering. In the last few hundred metres, he was losing time. At the top of the Puy it's 13 per cent. Poulidor should have attacked: he didn't. Poulidor didn't attack in the last 500 metres - it was Jacques who got dropped, and that's not the same thing.
Poulidor gained time but when they reached Paris, Anquetil still had a 55-second lead and won his last Tour de France. The writer Chris Sidwells said:
The race also ended the Anquetil era in Tour history. He could not face riding it the following year, and in 1966 he retired from the Tour with bad health - once he'd made sure that Poulidor could not win either. Poulidor may not have managed to slay his dragon, in fact so bloodied was he by his battle that he never did win the Tour, but he did manage to wound his rival, and in so doing brought down the curtain on the rule of the first five-times winner - the first great super-champion of the Tour de France.
Anquetil won all three of the Grand Tours - the first cyclist to do so. Anquetil twice won the Giro d'Italia (1960, 1964) and won the Vuelta a España once (1963). He also won the season-long Super Prestige Pernod International competition four times, in 1961, 1963, 1965 and 1966 — a record only surpassed by Eddy Merckx.
Anquetil-Poulidor: the social significance
Anquetil unfailingly beat Raymond Poulidor in the Tour de France and yet Poulidor remained the more popular. Divisions between their fans became marked, which two sociologists studying the impact of the Tour on French society say became emblematic of France old and new.
The extent of those divisions is shown in a story, perhaps apocryphal, told by Pierre Chany, who was close to Anquetil:
The Tour de France has the major fault of dividing the country, right down to the smallest hamlet, even families, into two rival camps. I know a man who grabbed his wife and held her on the grill of a heated stove, seated and with her skirts held up, for favouring Jacques Anquetil when he preferred Raymond Poulidor. The following year, the woman became a Poulidor-iste. But it was too late. The husband had switched his allegiance to Gimondi. The last I heard they were digging in their heels and the neighbours were complaining.
Jean-Luc Boeuf and Yves Léonard, in their study, wrote:
Those who recognised themselves in Jacques Anquetil liked his priority of style and elegance in the way he rode. Behind this fluidity and the appearance of ease was the image of France winning and those who took risks identified with him. Humble people saw themselves in Raymond Poulidor, whose face - lined with effort - represented the life they led on land they worked without rest or respite. His declarations, full of good sense, delighted the crowds: a race, even a difficult one, lasts less time than a day bringing in the harvest. A big part of the public therefore finished by identifying with the one who symbolised bad luck and the eternal position of runner-up, an image that was far from true for Poulidor, whose record was particularly rich. Even today, the expression of the eternal second and of a Poulidor Complex is associated with a hard life, as an article by Jacques Marseille showed in Le Figaro when it was headlined "This country is suffering from a Poulidor Complex".
Dauphiné and Bordeaux–Paris double
In 1965, Anquetil won the eight-day Alpine Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré stage race at 3pm, sat through two hours of interviews and receptions, took a 6:30pm chartered flight to Bordeaux and won the world's longest single-day classic, Bordeaux–Paris the following day. The race started at night and continued, from soon after dawn, behind derny motorcycle pacers.
Anquetil was upset, said Raphaël Géminiani in his autobiography, that his rival, Raymond Poulidor was always more warmly regarded even though he had never won the Tour de France. In 1965, when Poulidor was perceived to have received more credit for dropping Anquetil the previous year on the Puy-de-Dôme than Anquetil had received for winning the whole Tour, Géminiani persuaded him to ride the Dauphiné Libéré and, next day, the 557 km Bordeaux–Paris. That, he said, would end any argument over who was the greater athlete.
Anquetil won the Dauphiné, despite bad weather which he disliked, at 3pm. After two hours of interviews and receptions he flew from Nîmes to Bordeaux. At midnight, he ate his pre-race meal and then went to the start in the city's northern suburbs.
He could eat little during the night because of stomach cramp and was on the verge of retiring. Géminiani swore at Anquetil and called him "a great poof" to offend his pride and keep him riding. Anquetil felt better as morning came and the riders dropped in behind the derny pacing motorcycles that were a feature of the race. He responded to an attack by Tom Simpson, followed by his own team-mate Jean Stablinski. Anquetil and Stablinski attacked Simpson alternately, forcing Simpson to exhaust himself, and Anquetil won at the Parc des Princes. Stablinski finished 57 seconds later just ahead of Simpson.
The historian Dick Yates said:
It had been one of the hardest and closest derny-paced races in history but much more than that this double of Anquetil was one of the greatest exploits ever seen in cycling. At the Parc des Princes, Anquetil received the biggest ovation of his career, certainly much bigger than after any of his wins in the Tour. The race record was broken, Jacques was mobbed by reporters and photographers but he was tired and really had to get some rest. Few people realised it at the time but he had to make the long journey to Maubeuge in north-eastern France where the following day he was riding a criterium!
There are strong and undenied rumours that the jet laid on to get Anquetil to Bordeaux was provided through state funds on the orders of President Charles de Gaulle. Géminiani mentions the belief in his biography, without denying it, saying the truth will come out when French state records are opened to scrutiny.
Anquetil's most humiliating race was the Trofeo Baracchi in Italy in 1962, when he had to be pushed by his partner, Rudi Altig, and was so exhausted that he hit a pillar before reaching the track on which the race finished.
The Trofeo Baracchi was a 111 km race for two-man teams. Anquetil, the world's best time-triallist, and Altig, a powerful rider with a strong sprint, were favourites. But things soon went wrong. The writer René de Latour wrote:
I got my stopwatch going again to check the length of each man's turn at the front. Generally in a race of the Baracchi type, the changes are very rapid, with stints of no more than 300 yards. Altig was at the front when I started the check — and he was still there a minute later. Something must be wrong. Altig wasn't even swinging aside to invite Anquetil through... Suddenly, on a flat road, Anquetil lost contact and a gap of three lengths appeared between the two partners. There followed one of the most sensational things I have ever seen in any form of cycle racing during my 35 years' association with the sport — something which I consider as great a physical performance as a world hour record or a classic road race win. Altig was riding at 30mph at the front — and had been doing so for 15 minutes. When Anquetil lost contact, he had to ease the pace, wait for his partner to go by, push him powerfully in the back, sprint to the front again after losing 10 yards in the process, and again settle down to a 30mph stint at the front. Altig did this not just once but dozens of times.
The pair reached the track on which the race finished. The timekeeper was at the entrance to the stadium, so Anquetil finished. But instead of turning on to the velodrome, he rode straight on and hit a pole. He was helped away with staring eyes and with blood streaming from a cut to his head. The couple nevertheless won by nine seconds.
Anquetil was not as successful in the classic single-day races but towards the end of his career he won:
Anquetil finished in the top 10 in the world championship on six occasions, but second place in 1966 was the nearest he came to the rainbow jersey.
Anquetil was a smooth rider, a beautiful pedalling machine according to one writer. The American journalist Owen Mulholland wrote:
The sight of Jacques Anquetil on a bicycle gives credence to an idea we Americans find unpalatable, that of a natural aristocracy. From the first day he seriously straddled a top tube, "Anq" had a sense or perfection most riders spend a lifetime searching for. Between 1950, when he rode his first race, and nineteen years later, when he retired, Anquetil had countless frames underneath him, yet that indefinable poise was always there.
The look was that of a greyhound. His arms and legs were extended more than was customary in his era of pounded post World War II roads. And the toes pointed down. Just a few years before, riders had prided their ankling motion, but Jacques was the first of the big gear school. His smooth power dictated his entire approach to the sport. Hands resting serenely on his thin Mafac brake levers, the sensation from Quincampoix, Normandy, appeared to cruise while others wriggled in desperate attempts to keep up.