Jacques Anquetil is considered the best time trial cyclist ever. He owes this honorary title for a great deal to his five victories in the Tour de France, which makes him record holder with Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain. He was nicknamed Monsieur Chrono because of his steady, reliable friendship with the clock.
At a very young age already Anquetil proved to be an excellent cyclist. As a nineteen-year-old amateur he easily won the Grand Prix des Nations, a famous classic among time trial races in France. Looking back it was no surprise that young Jacques beat Fausto Coppi's then fourteen-year-old world hour record in 1956. One year later Anquetil debuted in the Tour de France and won it on this first attempt. He was far from an excellent climber, but always managed to keep the specialists in sight and consequently beat them by minutes in the time trials.
In his top years the Tour organisation were accused of adapting the entire race to the fellow Frenchman's abilities: less and lower mountains, more and longer time trials. But that should not overshadow his huge qualities as a cyclist. Not only did was he the first to win the Tour on five occasions (wearing the yellow jersey 51 times), but he also tasted victory twice in the Giro d'Italia, once in the Vuelta a España, five times in Paris-Nice and twice in the Dauphiné Liberé.
Legendary is the battle that Anquetil and his rival Raymond Poulidor had on the Puy de Dôme in 1964's Tour de France. Fourty eight hours before the finish in Paris, Poulidor managed to exhaust Anquetil by breaking away constantly. On the top Anquetil had only fourteen seconds left of his formerly comfortable lead. Thanks to his ability to suffer immensely, he also won that year's Tour. But in this supernatural physique there was a man who loved to spend the night with champagne and women.
The audience wasn't always too fond of Jacques Anquetil. He was a defensive calculator, especially in the mountain areas, whereas the average supporter liked impulsive attackers who played an all-or-nothing game. But all Anquetil wanted in the mountains was to prevent his opponents to get too big a lead. No more, no less. Whereas he was much more successful than his eternal opponent Poulidor, he could never match his popularity.
Despite his later confessions to a journalist that he often took amphetamines during his career, he managed to stay on his bicicle as a professional for a long time. Between 1954 and 1969 he built up a steady list of victories, although his classics total only three: Bordeaux-Paris, Gent-Wevelgem and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
After his goodbye in December 1969 Anquetil became a farmer on his castle in Neuville Champ d'Oisel in Normandy, his home region. He kept on following the Tour as radio and tv reporter. For newspaper l'Equipe (main sponsor of the Tour) he answered readers' questions on a daily basis.
He had a heavy operation because of stomach cancer in August 1987, but he recovered quickly. On September 6 he was back as coach of the French team at the world championship in Villach (Austria).
He went back to business too soon. On October 6 he suffered from severe pains in the stomach and was sent back to the hospital in Rouen. He did not leave town anymore. On Wednesday November 18, 1987 at three minutes past seven Jacques Anquetil closed his eyes for the last time, 53 years old. He left behind his three ex-wives and two children.
anthropod read some amazing things about Anquetil's love life in a cycling magazine: "The only thing missing here is some rather surprising dirt: he ran off with his doctor's wife, who he later married; then he had a child with her daughter (his stepdaughter) - he and his wife first said they were adopting a child, but when the truth about her parentage came out his wife left him (understandably, I'd say!) - and then he married his stepson's ex-wife."