the enigma of Jacques Anquetil
Of all the great cycling champions, Jacques Anquetil – the first man to win the Tour de France five times – remains the most mysterious. A prodigy, he burst upon the racing scene at the age of 18, defeating the world’s best in the Grand Prix des Nations. From that moment on, insists Pierre Chany, ‘he no longer belonged to himself’. Yet, perhaps more than any of cycling’s legends, he managed to protect his private life from public gaze.
Outwardly confident, and yet profoundly shy; rational and calculating, and yet superstitious and haunted by fear of death, Anquetil was an enigma. He defied the conventional picture of a racing cyclist: elegant on or off the bicycle, winning seemed to come too effortlessly; and he was too fond of the good life that his successes enabled him to enjoy. The French public did not really know what to make of him. His domination of the 1961 Tour de France, which he led from first day to last, earned him the title ‘Master Jacques’, but was greeted by boos and whistles. It was only as he neared retirement that Anquetil finally received the acclaim his achievements deserved.
In this, the first full-length English book about Jacques Anquetil, cycling historian Richard Yates explores the enigma of this great French rider.
‘His courage defied imagination, but nobody noticed because his style was so perfect.’
‘Master Jacques was no ordinary man. There was only one Jacques Anquetil: he was a champion the like of which we will never see again.’
- Raphaël Géminiani
- Phil Liggett