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Book review: Jacques Anquetil biography

Jacques Anquetil couldn't resist the female gender

Jacques Anquetil couldn't resist the female gender (Image credit: Mainstream Publishing)

Jacques Anquetil was a man who didn't hesitate to do or take what he wanted - whether it was a bicycle race or a woman. His cycling palmarès alone would grant him a place in history, but it was his personal relationships which made him all the more remarkable. British journalist Paul Howard wrote a new biography of the French cycling star, "Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape", and Cyclingnews' Susan Westemeyer took a look at it.

The book is a good read, an interesting look at the like of an extraordinary man. Howard reviewed Anquetil's life and cycling history in detail, and tops it off with personal interviews with his rivals, his friends and the (many) women in his life.

To put Anquetil's life in a nutshell: he won nearly everything there was to be won in his active pro career from 1951 to 1969. He made no bones about doping. And along the way he married the wife of his doctor and later fathered children by both his step-daughter and his daughter-in-law. He was loved by millions and the thousands attending his funeral included a former prime minister and such prominent cycling names as Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Raymond Poulidor and Rudi Altig.

Like a latter day multiple Tour de France winner, Anquetil decided to concentrate on that race which was the most important. Winning the Tour de France "would guarantee his prestige and his income," both of which were extremely important to him. He disliked one-day races not only because they were too difficult to control but also because they added little to his contract value.

Anquetil grew up on a strawberry farm in Normandy, a region where he was born in 1934 and which he loved dearly. But as early as his teenage years he looked to cycling as a way to improve not only his income but also his social standing. He first rode in the 1951 season, winning the fourth race that he started, followed by 14 more. The next year he won the French national amateur road title, the only national championship he ever won.

To read the full review, click here.

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