Sunday, July 3, 2011

Tour legends and legends of the tour; stage 2 - Jacques Anquetil

Throughout this, the 98th edition of le Tour de France, I will be writing a daily despatch on some of the things that have combined to make this race one of the biggest, most celebrated and anticipated sporting shows on earth.


Jacques Anquetil was the closest thing to a rock star the cycling world has ever seen. So close, in fact, that he probably would put a few rock stars to shame if he'd ever had the chance. There were women, mansions, speed boats and benders. His biography, Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape, as well as being an excellent read, has to be one of the great titles of all time (I'm a big fan of a good pun).

He openly admitted both to doping and racing bikes for solely financial reasons. This second assertion is perhaps confirmed by the fact that he only rode a bike three times after his retirement in December, 1969.

During the time he did spend on his bike, though, he did extraordinary things; wins in Paris-Nice, the Giro d'Italia, the Vuelta d'Espana, Ghent-Wevelgem, Bordeaux-Paris, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the hour record and many more, secured his place as one of the best riders of his era.

Anquetil and Poulidor

His Tour de France record, however, is what makes him one of the sport's all-time greats; with wins in 1957 and 1961-1964, he was the first five-time winner. He approached the race methodically, using his exceptional time trial skills to secure victory with as little effort as possible. He probably could have done a lot more in other areas of the race if he wanted. As his great rival, Raymond Poulidor stated,
"People often reproached him for winning the Tour thanks to the time trials, but I think he wasn't sufficiently recognised for what he did...I think that if we'd taken out the time trials, he'd have won anyway...He used time trials, that's all."
Jacques and Janine
And then there was his private life, which was as strange as his cycling career was exceptional. In 1958, Jacques married Janine Boeda, who had previously been married to Jacques' doctor, with whom she had two children, Annie and Alain. These births came from complicated Caesarean operations, after which Janine had her tubes cut.

Jacques and Janine had a happy, functional marriage until Jacques' retirement in 1969. At this point, Jacques' desire to have a child of his own became all-consuming. He was willing to pay a surrogate mother to have his child. Instead, Janine came up with this solution;
"...in order that he could be happy, so I could keep him, so that nothing would change, so that the Anquetils could stay together, I had the crazy idea - it was like a deliverance - to ask my daughter to have my husband's child...I know that some people, not to say most people, will find it difficult to believe what I'm about to say, but given the context...I had to ask Annie."
And so it was that Jacques had a daughter, Sophie, with his daughter-in-law, Annie. The family then lived together in a ménage à trois. Jacques would usually first go to Annie's bed and then later sleep the night with Janine.

Not surprisingly, this set-up didn't last forever. Surprisingly, it did last for about ten years. One reason for the breakdown was the arrival of Janine's son, Alain and his wife, Dominique. Jacques began an affair with Dominique, with whom he later had a son, Christopher. All this was too much for Annie, who moved out. Some time later, Sophie moved out to live with her mother and Janine moved to a flat in Paris.

And so it was that for a short period of time before his death, Jacques lived with his ex-wife's son's ex-wife, Dominique, in a more or less normal environment. He died in November, 1987 at the age of 54 from stomach cancer.

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